A recent study published in Food Quality and Preference
suggests that hearing the sounds of chewing may reduce how much food you consume. Count this as another point for mindful eating.
A joint effort between groups at Brigham Young University and Colorado State University have
described what they call the “Crunch Effect,” the idea that the sounds of mastication make you more conscious of what you’re eating so you’re less likely to overconsume. The “Crunch Effect” dovetails nicely with the concept of mindful eating and the advice of many doctors and experts to stop eating while distracted.
This paper consists of three studies. The first study compared the consumption of small chocolate chip cookies among three groups: one group that was told to eat as loudly as they could, one group that was told to eat as quietly as they could, and the third was told to eat normally. Both the loud and quiet eaters ate significantly less cookies than the normal group, probably because they were focused on their eating noises. The second study compared the consumption of pretzels between a group listening to a high volume white noise and a group listening to low volume white noise. The low white noise group ate significantly less pretzels than the high volume group. Finally, the researchers explored whether text describing a chip’s crunchiness would have a differential effect on consumption compared to text drawing attention to the chip’s tastiness. The group exposed to the text describing how crispy and crunchy the chip is consumed less chips during the experiment.
All of these results point to awareness and attention to eating sounds causing a reduction in food consumption. This is not a revolutionary idea; the research on mindful eating is plentiful. Looking at the impact specifically on food sounds though has been neglected. It really does just come down to paying attention to what you’re consuming and respecting the intrinsic cues. In the discussion in this paper, the researchers reference “pause points” which play a role in consumption modulation. When a sound is covering up your own chewing noises or you are not focusing on your eating, you might miss the auditory pause points and then your consumption modulation is impaired. What I would take away from this paper is a reinforcement of the idea that you should pay attention to all the visual, auditory, and olfactory aspects of your food while you eat.
, Elder and Mohr