60-Second Mind

Eaters Assume Crunchy Foods Have Fewer Calories

Food’s texture in your mouth—also called “mouthfeel” or “oral haptics”—influences estimates of calorie counts. And people might eat more crunchy stuff assuming (often incorrectly) it has fewer calories than softer fare. Christie Nicholson reports


When food is gooey, we assume it’s more fattening than harder foods. For instance, most people guess that a soft, warm cookie has more calories than a cooled-down, crunchier version.
New research confirms that food’s texture in your mouth—also called “mouthfeel” or “oral haptics”—influences estimates of calorie counts. And thus affects total food consumption. The study is in the Journal of Consumer Research. [Dipayan Biswas et al, Something to Chew On: The Effects of Oral Haptics on Mastication, Orosensory Perception and Calorie Estimation]
Scientists offered brownies to volunteers. Half got hard brownies. The other half got softer ones. They all had to guess the number of calories in each sample. And the group that ate the softer brownies produced estimates for their caloric value 55 percent higher than the estimates for the hard brownies by the subjects who ate them. The hard brownie group also ate more brownies. Probably because they thought they were getting a caloric bargain due to mouth feel.
The researchers also offered brownies to a second group of volunteers. Again, half received hard brownies, the other half got soft ones. But this time participants were not asked to estimate calories. This group gobbled up significantly more of the softer brownies. Presumably because they were considered tastier.  
So remember: the cookie might be crunchy…but the calories are still gooey.
—Christie Nicholson
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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