In brief

Modifying food textures to make them more crunchy or chewy influences eating behaviours and may be a useful, easy-to-implement tool to control long-term energy intake.

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Chomp your way to healthier eating

16 Jun 2023

Changing the texture of food can change eating rates and represent a new approach to helping people manage their nutrition.

Many New Year’s resolution diets fail because restricting calories can be difficult to maintain over time. However, nutrition experts now suggest that instead of eating less, simply changing the texture of food can help people maintain a healthy weight in the long run.

Processed, energy-dense foods like potato chips can be eaten much faster than healthier options like raw vegetables, making it easier to overconsume calories. Over time, this places people at a greater risk of developing obesity and poor heart health. Conversely, people at risk of malnutrition, such as the elderly, require palatable food that is easy to eat to meet their daily energy intake requirements.

A research team led by Ciarán Forde, a former Principal Investigator at A*STAR’s Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC) at the Singapore Institute of Food and
Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI), hypothesised that food textures such as hardness, chewiness and moistness could play important roles in shaping people’s eating behaviours.

The team, which included CNRC Research Officer Janani R and Senior Research Fellow Pey Sze Teo, had previously explored how calories consumed between fast and slow eaters differed. In their latest study, they demonstrated that combinations of food textures strongly influence our rate of eating.

To demonstrate the effect of individual texture combinations on eating rate, the team prepared carrots and crackers in different sizes and shapes, and with or without condiments (i.e. lubrication) before serving them to study participants to see how these factors influenced eating dynamics.

Based on the time spent chewing, the number of chews and the overall eating rates, the team found that single carrot pieces were faster to consume and carrots served with mayonnaise were easier to swallow.

“A key finding was that not all texture combinations have an equivalent impact on oral processing behaviours,” said Forde. Based on these and other findings, the team established a new hierarchy of effects, where food hardness had the greatest impact on eating rate in both carrots and crackers, followed by thickness, lubrication and unit size.

Forde said that their findings can inform the development of new texture-based dietary interventions. “A combination of textures, rather than a single texture modification, could be applied to guide product reformulation and public health guidelines that slow the rate and extent of consumption.”

These findings also highlight how new approaches can help people manage their nutrition and wellness. The team is currently advancing their research through a collaborative study with the Division of Human Nutrition and Health at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, to explore the sustained impact of food texture manipulations on energy intake in the long run.

The A*STAR-affiliated researchers contributing to this research are from the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC) at the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI).

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Janani, R., Tan, V.W.K., Goh, A.T., Choy, M.J.Y., Lim, A.J.Y., et al. Independent and combined impact of texture manipulation on oral processing behaviours among faster and slower eaters. Food & Function 13, 9340 (2022). | article

About the Researchers

Ciarán Forde was formerly a Principal Investigator at A*STAR’s Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC). Currently, he is the Chair in Sensory Science and Eating Behavior at the Division of Human Nutrition and Health, at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands. He leads research on how the sensory properties of foods influence calorie selection, eating behaviours and energy intake and metabolism across the life-span. Forde has published >120 scientific articles and book chapters, and his research has been presented at over 200 national and international meetings. He is an Executive Editor at the journal Appetite, Section Editor in ‘Nutrition Behavior and Food Intake Regulation’ for the European Journal of Nutrition, and an editorial board member for Nutrition Bulletin, Journal of Future Food and Journal of Texture Studies. Before joining Wageningen, Forde spent almost 20 years in public and private sector research roles in the UK (GSK), Australia (CSIRO), Switzerland (Nestlé Research) and Singapore (National University of Singapore/A*STAR). He received his BSc (Hons) in Food Chemistry and a PhD in Sensory Science from the Department of Nutrition at the University College Cork in Ireland.
Janani R completed her bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Technology at the National University of Singapore. She joined the Sensory & Ingestive Behaviour Team under the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC) at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) in 2021 as a Research Officer. Her research interests revolve around oral processing studies, sensory evaluation studies through trained sensory panel and consumer studies such as investigating consumer perceptions towards various foods or food labels.
Pey Sze TEO graduated with a PhD in Human Nutrition from Wageningen University, the Netherlands where she specialised in sensory science and eating behaviour. She is currently working as a Senior Research Fellow at the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI). Her current research focus is on how food properties, sensory characteristics, and psychological factors influence calorie selection and food choice and through this, impacts energy intake and body composition. She hopes to contribute to the development of a healthy food system in the future with reduced fat, sugar and salt content for consumers while maintaining palatability.

This article was made for A*STAR Research by Wildtype Media Group