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How The Color Of Food Packaging Affects Your Sense Of Taste
There may be more to food than meets the eye, but in many cases, what your eyes perceives can have a major effect on whether you find that food appetizing or not. A new study has shown that the color of food packaging can influence how much people enjoy the food it contains.
A study published in the Journal of Food Science made headlines recently when it revealed that the color of a confectionary sweetener’s packaging could determine how sweet people thought it would be – regardless of what kind of sweetener it actually was. Researchers at Louisiana State University ran an experiment involving over 500 volunteers and five different types of sweetener: sucrose (natural sugar), sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, and stevia.
The participants were broken into different groups. One group had non-colored packets with the brand name printed on them, while the other groups had colored packets with the brand names printed on them. In the experiment, the different colors corresponded to a different color: green (stevia), blue (aspartame), white (sucrose), pink (saccharine), and sucralose (yellow).
Each participant was presented with five samples of tea in which each sweetener would be tested. This is where the researchers noticed something incredible: the participants had radically different reactions to the sweeteners depending on whether their sweetener packets were colored or not.
In the control group, the test subjects found the sucrose packet to be the sweetest and the most satisfying. The participants who received the colored packages, however, had much more varied reactions. They reported that the blue aspartame packets left them feeling “disgusted,” and the green stevia packets were more pleasing. Everyone seemed to say something different, but the only thing that had been changed was the sweetener packet color.
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These findings suggest that our senses are not as distinct as we might normally think. Rather, our senses are closely intertwined, and in the case of the Louisiana State experiment, the sense of sight had a strong influence on the perception of taste.
Many other studies demonstrate this link between the senses. A famous study in the 1970s found that the color of food could have a drastic effect on whether people found it pleasing or disgusting – even if they had already started eating it. In this study, the test subjects were given a hearty meal of steak and french fries. Most of them thought the food tasted quite good. Unbeknownst to them, the food had been dyed unnatural colors, but due to special lighting effects in the room, the study participants weren’t aware of any change.
At some point in the study, the lights were adjusted so that the participants could see the food as it appeared under normal light. They were shocked to discover that the french fries had been dyed green and the beef dyed blue! The majority of the test subjects no longer wished to finish their meal, even if they had found it delicious moments before. Some of them even became physically ill after seeing the colored food!
Other studies have shown how people seem to have a natural tendency to associate colors with foods that taste like those colors. One study involved dyeing sodas colors that didn’t correspond with their flavors. Many people will think that a green soda will taste like lime. Even if it’s actually a cherry-flavored soda, they’ll swear it tastes like lime. Many people will perceive orange foods as tasting like oranges, even if the flavor is something else.
READ ALSO: 10 Ways You Can Stop Eating Fast Foods Now
Is it possible that food companies are adding extra dyes to foods to “enhance” the flavor, even though the dye has no flavor of its own? Indeed, it is. While one shouldn’t become paranoid and assume every meal you eat includes some built-in psychological trick, it’s important to be aware of such phenomena, and the effect they can have on the way you perceive food. The best way to avoid any such problems is to eat a healthy diet of whole foods in their natural forms. This way, you ensure that you’re getting the quality nutrients your body needs, and that you’re not messing with your senses each time you sit down for a meal.