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Texture and fullness: The psychology of satiety

By Nathan Gray+

20-Mar-2013

Texture is important for the liking of a food, but it also offers valuable clues to our expected feelings of fullness. Now experts believe that subtle alterations in food texture can trick us into feeling fuller for longer.

Manipulating the texture of a food to increase feelings of fullness may seem obvious, but until recently there has been very little scientific evidence to show the true power of our perceptions of food on satiety. However, recent research has shown that altering the texture of a food to increase perceptions of 'thickness' and 'creaminess' can work to increase consumer expectation that a product will be filling.

“Hunger and fullness are complicated issues because it is not just the calories in a food or drink that make it filling," explained Keri McCrickerd from the University of Sussex, UK, who led the recent research study .

"Signals from the stomach are important but so too is how the drink feels in the mouth," she said. "In our study both creamy flavour and texture affected expected fullness, but only thickness seemed to affect whether hunger was expected to be satisfied."

"This may be because thick texture is a characteristic of food that we associate with being full."

The study also found that consumer expectations are important - and showed that consumers are sensitive to subtle changes in oral sensory characteristics of a drink, suggesting that "thick texture and creamy flavour can be manipulated to enhance expectations of fullness and satiety regardless of calories.” 

Eating speed

But, texture can also play a role in our feelings of fullness due to effects on the speed of consumption and bite size. Recent research from Ciaran Forde at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland, suggested that the textural properties of foods has a direct influence on consumers' eating behaviour and food intake .

“Previous studies suggest that oral processing characteristics such as large bite size, low number of chews and low orosensory exposure contribute to the low satiating efficiency of these foods," the team behind the study said.

"The evidence from these studies provides new insights into how different foods may impact eating behaviours, such as bite size and chewing time. These, in turn, can also impact feelings of fullness and food intake," explained Forde.

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