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Apr 19, 2014 07:11 AM EDT

Hard and Rough Texture Foods Perceived to Have Lesser Calories, Study

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People are more likely to associate food that is hard or having rough texture with fewer calories, a latest study shows. Researchers said that both texture and taste of food influences diet choices.

"We studied the link between how a food feels in your mouth and the amount we eat, the types of food we choose, and how many calories we think we are consuming," authors Dipayan Biswas, Courtney Szocs (both from the University of South Florida), Aradhna Krishna (University of Michigan), and Donald R. Lehmann (Columbia University), said in a press release.

For the study, researchers first asked participants to sample foods involving hard, soft, rough, or smooth textures and then report their calorie estimates.

The participants were then made to watch and assess a series of television ads. While watching the ads, researchers offered brownies that were either soft or hard. Half of the participants were asked to rate the calorie content of the brownies. The researchers found that those who were not asked about the calorie content ate higher volumes of brownies when they were soft. On the other hand, those who were assigned to rate the calorie content, consumed a higher volume of hard brownies.

"Understanding how the texture of food can influence calorie perceptions, food choice, and consumption amount can help nudge consumers towards making healthier choices," the authors conclude.

Researchers said that "oral haptics" or "mouthfeel" influences people's perception of calorie levels.

"This 'oral haptics-calorie estimation' (OHCE) effect is driven by the lower mastication [chewing] effort and the higher orosensory perception for soft (versus hard) and smooth (versus rough) foods," the researchers said, Tech Times reports.

Researchers said that food manufacturing companies that aim to encourage healthy eating through their products can look to emphasize on texture besides their low calorie content.

For example, Burger King recently introduced new lower-calorie French fries, "Satisfries". The food giant rendered a rough texture to these fries, making them more crinkly than the normal higher-calorie fries with a smooth texture. And Nestle's Crunch bar, launched in 1937, continues to be top seller for the candy manufacturer.

The finding is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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