Colour-marking of food can reduce consumption
Research at America’s Cornell University has found that segmenting food with visual – and edible – markers can result in people consuming less.
Dr Brian Wansink and his team at Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab placed red-dyed potato chips into a packet of Lays Stackables chips. The coloured chips were inserted at intervals each representing a suggested serve size: one serving equalled seven chips or two serving sizes at 14 chips; in the second study, this was changed to five and 10 chips.
Ninety-eight students took part in the study but were unaware of the reason for the red chips. Those with the dyed chips ate 50 percent less than the control group.
The students with the marker chips were able to estimate how many they had eaten, guessing within one chip. This compared with the control group who grossly underestimated the amount they had eaten by an average of 13 chips.
Dr Wansink is the John Dyson Professor of Consumer Behaviour and author of the best-seller “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.”
“People generally eat what is put in front of them if it is palatable, an increasing amount of research suggests that some people use visual indication — such as a clean plate or bottom of a bowl — to tell them when to stop eating,” he said.
Dr Wansink said that although further, larger studies were needed to determine in what context segmentation cues work, he believed marking portion sizes could be an effective strategy in reducing food intake.
By inserting visual markers in a snack food package, we may be helping them to monitor how much they are eating and interrupt their semi-automated eating habits,” he said.
Coloured food is a different strategy than the use of colours on packaging such as in the traffic light front-of-pack labelling system.
The Cornell experiment is unlikely to be used for any scheme to mandate food colours. On the other hand, it is possible that the use of colour-marked foods could be used as a dietary management tool.
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