‘Better Living through Sensory’; Using Sensory Cues to Moderate Eating Behaviour, Food Intake and Health
Food choice and energy intake are much influenced more by sensory and cognitive aspects of eating than the nutritive properties of the food being consumed, yet chronic disease and ill-health are the result of prolonged exposure to diets with poor nutritive properties and high energy-density. The role of dietary patterns in the development of diet-related conditions is undisputed, but this knowledge is of little value if we do not understand the reasons why people continue to choose and consume unhealthy foods. Today we know much more about what a food does to the body once consumed, than we do about why a food is chosen and eaten, or why it can be easy overconsume certain foods and not others.
The sensory properties of foods play an important role in shaping ‘what’, ‘how much’ and ‘why’ we eat, and the dietary patterns that influence health and well-being across the lifespan. Not all calories are created equal and food texture, taste and aroma are influential before and during meals to direct food choice, inform portion selection and drive our eating behaviours. Our research has demonstrated the joint impact of eating at a faster rate and consuming higher energy dense foods in promoting greater intake, and we have extended this to explore the sensory and eating rate properties of (ultra)processed foods. By including ‘sensory’ ratings in population dietary epidemiology studies, we have pioneered the development of ‘Sensory Epidemiology’ to make novel connections between the sensory properties of habitual diets and the intake patterns that influence body composition and health. Sensory Scientists are uniquely positioned at the cross-roads of food science, nutrition and consumer behaviour to understand how food perception can be used to influence the transition to healthier and more sustainable diets. The sensory properties of foods offer opportunities to moderate the flow of energy and nutrients through our diets, yet are currently an under-utilized tool in public health nutrition. Addressing the serious public health challenges posed by the modern food environment will require changes in food formulation and intake behaviour. Using a foods sensory properties makes it possible to support healthier eating behaviours and can inform the development of successful dietary strategies that keep food enjoyment and satisfaction at the heart of healthy eating.
Ciarán Forde is Professor and Chair of the Sensory Science and Eating Behavior group in the Division of Human Nutrition and Health, at Wageningen University and Research. He leads research on how the sensory properties of foods influence calorie selection, eating behaviors and energy intake and metabolism across the life-span. Prof. 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 for 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 Prof. Forde has previously spent over 18 years in public and private sector research roles in the UK (GSK), Australia (CSIRO) and Switzerland (Nestlé Research) and Singapore (Clinical Nutrition Research Centre/NUS). He received his BSc (Hons) in Food Chemistry and a PhD in Sensory Science from the Department of Nutrition in University College Cork.