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How to Reduce Sugar and Salt Intake with Music

Updated on May 12, 2015

Is Music the Answer to less Sugar and Salt in our Diets?

We all know that smell is intrinsically connected to taste, but besides sight, there is still another sense that affects how food tastes and that is sound. Sound affects the interpretation of food for our mind but does not affect taste as much as smell and sight.

Scientists have discovered a new technique to maintain or even enhance the taste introduced by seasoning, without actually adding these ingredients, thus also ridding us of the bland food problem.

Music and Eating

Professor of Experimental Psychology, Charles Spence of Oxford University has completed tests, which proves that listening to certain sounds increases your sense of taste. It has been dubbed sonic-seasoning, which tricks your brain into believing that a flavor is either more salty, sweet, or sour than it actually is.

Spence conducted tests giving subjects four pieces of identical toffee. The individuals all believed the toffee was more bitter when listening to the sounds of brass instruments, while believing the toffee was sweeter when listening to high pitched piano music.

Prof. Spence further found that in restaurants playing French music, diners ordered French wine, and German wine, if German music was playing. The food from the seafood counter tasted better to diners when sounds of the sea were playing, as one upmarket restaurant found when they put an iPod in a Conch!

Loud background noises suppress aroma and the taste of saltiness, sweetness, while altitude, as in an aircraft, compounds this effect. As an aside, the background noise in some restaurants can reach 90db, which is louder than that of commercial flights.

Still flying, many people drink bloody Mary or ask for tomato juice while flying, and don’t do so on the ground, as tomatoes are part of the Umami food group, the taste of which is not affected by noise.

Umami - New taste Category

The new category of taste named Umami, (Japanese found that food cooked in seaweed broth tasted better, and it is one of the main ingredients in MSG), may be immune to background noise. Therefore, to combat the hell of plane food, eat foods rich in this taste group such as tomatoes, parmesan, mature cheddar cheese, soybeans, sweet potatoes, shellfish, green tea Soy sauce, Oyster Sauce, eggs, Tuna, Cod, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Marmite and Worcester Sauce.

This could aid cooks to reduce unhealthy ingredients without losing the richness. Banishing excess sugar and salt from diets could be a beauty queen’s answer to world peace.

The sounds change the saltiness or sweetness by up to 10%, which could be big enough to have a health impact. You can prime the brain for sweetness by playing a high-pitched sound, a lower pitched sound for saltiness. Also, the tempo of the music and the instruments do seem to matter.

GeoBeats news on Sonic Seasoning

Children and Eating Problems


Perhaps future research may include Spence’s work and how it could be used for children in feeding therapy. Would certain tones be more soothing to children with autism if played while they are eating? Would certain music played in the school cafeteria help children eat faster or perhaps choose foods that are more nutritious?

Eating Apps: As all taste is really in our head, perhaps we will start developing apps that played music conducive to improving taste, which allows us to reduce the sugar and salt content in our food.

Dangers of Sugar and Sodium

The World Health Organisation advises adults to eat a maximum of 12 teaspoons of sugar per day, although it is considering dropping the level to six as it is so harmful creating obesity, type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Salt for the day should be 1500mg instead of the 3400mg that is consumed. 65% of this sodium comes from supermarkets and convenience foods. High sodium intake increases the high blood pressure risk, which is the leading factor for death in women in the U.S.

Other risks for high sodium intake are: Stroke, Osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney disease and/or stones, headaches, increased water retention.

The different types of music and food

Chemosensory Perception journal look at matching pitches and instruments with aroma. The aromas of candied peel, dried plums were all matched with piano, significantly more than woodwind, strings or brass.

Musk, on the other hand, was overwhelmingly brass and in terms of pitch, candied orange was significantly higher than musk and roasted coffee.

A single trombone note mixed with the rumble of car traffic in a tunnel emphasized the bitter taste, while the sweet taste was created on a grand piano. Instead of synthesized music the classical music of Erik Satie ‘Trois Gymnopedies’ would make food taste sweeter, whereas Schumann’s ‘Davidsbundlertanze’ would promote sourness. (We all have those numbers on our iPods, don’t we?)

A cabernet sauvignon should be paired with ‘Won’t get Fooled Again’ by The Who, to bring out the wine’s depth, whereas a chardonnay will be complimented with ‘Atomic’ by Blondie. This one I understand, a merlot needs ‘The Dock of the Bay’ by Otis Redding, here I can already feel the ebb and flow of the rhythm and taste the wine.

Grab your glass of Merlot and listen to Otis

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    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      4 years ago

      Torrs13 Thank you for chiming in here. I was quite fascinated when I first heard about this too!

      midget38, So glad you dropped in again. Thank you.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Never thought of the possibility before...Thanks for sharing!

    • Torrs13 profile image

      Tori Canonge 

      4 years ago from North Carolina

      This was a fascinating read! I guess I never thought that music and noise could affect your taste and eating habits, but I can see how it makes sense now!

    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      4 years ago

      DDE, thank you for stopping by Devika, hope you enjoy your Sunday.

    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      4 years ago

      DDE, thank you for stopping by Devika, hope you enjoy your Sunday.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      It is amazing one's mind is worked by their expectations.

    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      4 years ago

      billybuc, Glad you liked this one, it is quite amazing what science finds out about us. Thank you for being No.1 again!

      FlourishAnyway, thank you for chiming in here, I enjoyed a cappuccino once and only at the end did I realise it was a hot chocolate! I'm sure we have all had a brains play tricks us in the taste department.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 years ago from USA

      The brain is a funny organ and I imagine it is very susceptible to such influences. I once had mincemeat pie in a fancy hotel at brunch, utterly believing it was the most delicious chocolate pecan pie I had ever tasted. So much for expectations.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This really should come as no surprise and yet it does. Fascinating information, Shelley. We are such complicated creatures, aren't we? I really loved this one...nice research.

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