Mindful munching: listening to yourself eat ‘will make you eat less’

New research suggests that if you want to lose weight you should listen to yourself eat.

Paying attention to the sound that food makes helps us to monitor our consumption, according to the study, which has been published in the journal Food Quality and Preference.

The phenomenon, which the researchers called the ‘crunch effect’, was observed in three experiments in which participants wore headphones allowing them, to varying degrees, to hear the sound of themselves eating. The researchers found that those who listened to louder noises ate more than those in the ‘quiet group’ — four pretzels compared to 2.75.

The researchers also found that asking participants to think of chewing sounds helped them to regulate their consumption. The researchers link their findings with ‘mindfulness’ — the concept of being more aware of your senses and surroundings.

Their findings suggest that eating in front of the television — in Britain six in ten meals are eaten this way — could lead to weight gain.

Professor Gina Mohr, the study’s co-author, said: ‘For the most part consumers and researchers have overlooked food sound as an important sensory cue in the eating experience.

‘When you mask the sound of consumption — like when you watch TV while eating — you take away one of those senses and it may cause you to eat more than you would normally. The effects may not seem huge — one less pretzel — but over the course of a week, month, or year it could really add up.’

Instant analysis
Much has been made of mindfulness in eating over the years, with many experts recommending focussing on the food, rather than (for example) eating at one’s desk while working etc. Satiety is, however, a hugely subjective sensation, which can make the relatively small differences between the groups studied seem even less significant. Nonetheless, it is an interesting idea and it would be good to see more research on it.
Research score: 3/5