Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology reviewed evidence for colour’s effect on satiety, the impact of colour monotony on intake, and the effect of the display and number of colours on consumption. They found that evidence is mixed as to whether colour variety alone can affect food intake – and there are several theories, although none conclusive, about why colour might affect consumption.
One of the review’s authors, Professor Charles Spence, has previously studied the way in which the colour of plateware and even the colour of the environment may affect food and drink intake, and the authors note that the colour of the food itself may not necessarily have the biggest impact on people’s consumption behaviour.
However, while some have theorised that colour variation in foods may increase intake, by reducing ‘boredom’ with monochrome foods, other researchers have suggested that breaking colour monotony may make people more mindful of their consumption, thereby reducing intake.
“On the one hand, there is the notion that more visually pleasing foods are more likely to result in more pleasant tasting experiences,” the authors wrote. This could have beneficial applications, they suggest, such as colouring a food that is nutritionally important but repetitive, in order to reduce dislike – and perhaps increase consumption.
“However, increasing solely the variety of colour in a food/meal does not always appear to alter the amount of food that is consumed.”
The researchers added: “While the evidence in support of the existence of increased consumption when people are presented with increased variety regarding the taste, aroma, texture, and shape is now well-supported, researchers should be cautious (until further empirical evidence has been collected) before asserting the existence of an equivalent effect induced by nothing more than increased colour in a meal.”
Vol. 75, 1 April 2014, pp. 165–172 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.01.004
“Colour, pleasantness, and consumption behaviour within a meal”
Authors: Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, Charles Spence