The research by Fabian Grabenhorst and his colleagues at Oxford University provides fascinating insights into the brain’s response to different food textures, specifically those with high fat content. The study found that the orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for sensations and food attraction, is activated by fatty foods. However, it’s not just the taste that makes these foods appealing; it’s also their mouthfeel.
The researchers prepared vanilla-flavored milkshakes with varying fat and sugar content, as well as pig tongues to measure their sliding friction in conditions similar to the human mouth. They found that the friction decreased according to the fat content of the shake. They then tested more than twenty participants who tasted milkshakes with different compositions and asked them how much they were willing to pay for more. Their brains were imaged using a functional magnetic resonance imaging device while they tasted the shakes, revealing that differences in composition and pleasantness reflected reactions in the orbitofrontal cortex.
The study also showed that people’s food choices are influenced by mouthfeel. Participants chose greasy curries for lunch based on their sensory experience of texture, regardless of calorie count or nutritional value. This suggests that developing low-calorie foods with a satisfying mouthfeel could be an effective way to encourage healthier eating habits.
In summary, this study highlights how our brains respond to different food textures and how this can influence our food choices. By understanding these responses, researchers may be able to develop healthier alternatives to high-fat foods while still satisfying our cravings for rich textures and flavors.