Italian scientists discover that music can influence how you eat focaccia bread

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The background music in a restaurant might affect your dining experience in an intriguing way. Recent research published in the journal Food Quality and Preference provides insight into how music tempo influences our emotions and eating behaviors. The study found that slower music tempos lead to more relaxed emotions and longer meal durations, while faster tempos make people feel more energetic and eat more quickly.

The study was conducted at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, involving 124 participants initially recruited from among students and staff. After excluding 21 participants due to technical issues or non-compliance, data from 103 subjects were analyzed.

To ensure consistency and relevance, the researchers selected white focaccia bread as the food stimulus. This choice was strategic because focaccia bread is popular in Italy, easy to portion, and vegan and lactose-free, making it suitable for a broad participant pool.

The auditory stimuli consisted of electronic music tracks, which were edited to two distinct tempos: 145 beats per minute (fast) and 85 beats per minute (slow). The electronic genre was chosen for its versatility and ease of editing without distortion. Each participant was assigned to listen to one of six randomly compiled music sets to ensure varied exposure.

Participants were instructed to eat a 150-gram piece of focaccia while listening to the assigned music in individual sensory booths equipped with video recording devices. These recordings captured detailed eating behaviors, including the number of chews, bites, and sips of water taken by each participant. After completing the eating task, participants filled out a questionnaire to rate their liking for the food and music and performed a check-all-that-apply (CATA) test to identify the emotions they experienced during the meal.

The study’s findings revealed significant differences in eating behaviors and emotional responses between the slow and fast tempo music groups. Participants exposed to slow-tempo music (85 BPM) displayed longer meal durations and more thorough chewing compared to those listening to fast-tempo music (145 BPM).

In particular, the slow-tempo group averaged 18.8 chews and spent approximately 382 seconds eating, while the fast-tempo group averaged 15.6 chews and spent about 314 seconds eating. However, there was no significant difference in the amount of food consumed between the two groups.

Emotionally, the slow-tempo music induced feelings of calmness and peace, whereas the fast-tempo music elicited higher energy levels and enthusiasm. This aligns with existing research suggesting that slower music creates a more relaxed state, while faster music increases arousal. Additionally, gender differences were noted, with females in the slow-tempo group reporting higher satisfaction levels compared to males, who felt more worried when exposed to fast-tempo music.

These results provide evidence that musical tempo can influence specific eating behaviors. While the amount of food consumed remained unchanged, the study suggests that music tempo can influence the pace and experience of eating, potentially affecting long-term satiety and subsequent food intake. This research opens avenues for further exploration into how background music can be used strategically in dining environments to enhance meal experiences and promote healthier eating habits.

“Considering that chewing can increase satiety and reduce food intake in the next eating episode and that it has been shown to be important for individual digestion and nutrient assimilation as well as brain health, the results of this study could significantly contribute to the prevention of overeating and improving people’s well-being,” the researchers concluded. “Music tempo has historically been exploited by the marketing industry to promote purchasing behaviors, increase time and money spent in restaurants or food and beverage consumption.”

“However, playing slow tempo music in school and work canteens could also be a valuable and cost-effective strategy for the restaurant industry to adopt in order to slow down food consumption and promote healthier eating patterns. Further studies are needed to assess whether music can be used effectively to promote healthy eating behaviors in real-world settings.”

The study, “Chew that beat! How music tempo influences eating behaviors and emotions,” was authored by Riccardo Migliavada, Fabio Luceri, and Luisa Torri.

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