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).