19 July 2019

Posture Affects Taste

Welcome back. Do you want to eat less? Eat standing up. Do you have guests for dinner and the food didn’t turn out right? Have them eat standing up. Do your kids balk at eating veggies? Let them eat the veggies standing up. 

Standing while eating at home
(from recipes.timesofindia.com).
What’s all this standing to eat about? It turns out that posture, specifically sitting versus standing, affects how the taste of food is perceived. At least that’s what researchers from the University of South Florida and Louisiana State University found.

Why Does Posture Matter?
We normally evaluate food with our visual, olfactory, gustatory, haptic and auditory senses. To these five senses, the researchers added a sixth. They demonstrated that our vestibular sense, the one responsible for balance, posture and spatial orientation, also plays a major role.

Standing causes physical stress and subdues taste buds. As gravity pulls blood lower in the body, the heart works harder to pump blood upward. This stimulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, a major neuroendocrine system, and produces increased concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol. These reactions reduce sensory sensitivity, impacting taste evaluation, food temperature perception and overall consumption.

Standing versus Sitting Tests
The researchers conducted a series of tests to confirm the importance of the vestibular sense.

In one, they had 350 participants rate the taste of pita chips. Participants who were standing gave a lower rating than participants who sat in a padded chair.

In a second test, they had participants eat bite-size brownies, baked locally and considered pleasant tasting. Participants who ate the brownies while sitting rated them most delicious. The baker then made a new batch, adding extra salt to make the taste less pleasant. Participants who ate the saltier brownies while standing didn’t notice. They rated the brownies more favorable than participants who ate the brownies while sitting.

In another test, participants had to sample a fruit snack while carrying a shopping bag. The intent was to simulate what occurs when a shopper tries samples at a grocery store or in a food court. Sitting and standing participants both found the added weight made the food taste worse.

To test the effect of posture on food temperature perception and consumption, participants drank hot coffee. Those sitting found the coffee to be hotter than did those standing, yet they drank more, which suggests the stress of standing suppressed their appetite. Standing rather than sitting while eating food also leads to lesser amounts consumed.

Standing while eating at a restaurant (from
ny.eater.com/2017/2/20/14570352/ikinari-steak-nyc-opens).
Wrap Up
The researchers are affiliated with university marketing departments. They judge that their study findings have conceptual implications for expanding sensory marketing as well as the effects of sensory systems on food taste perceptions.

Of particular interest are the practical implications of standing while eating for the environmental design of restaurants, retail and other food services. Of course, one could also stand just to eat less. Thanks for stopping by.

P.S.
Study of vestibular sensations and food taste in Journal of Consumer Research: academic.oup.com/jcr/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jcr/ucz018/5488173
Article on study on ScienceDaily website: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190607091031.htm
Wikipedia description of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothalamic%E2%80%93pituitary%E2%80%93adrenal_axis

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