Those who eat more slowly will be full more quickly and thus absorb fewer calories overall than those who eat their food quickly. Background music of any kind can be used to extend the length of time we eat. This effect is particularly strong when playing the music is playing legato, as Danish researchers report in the journal “Appetite”.

The connection between the tempo of music and the speed of eating may be based on the fact that the rhythm of chewing adapts to the beat of the music. According to this, the scientists suspect that fast rhythms might also be effective as a remedy for a lack of appetite. “Music could be used to influence the pace of eating and to contribute to healthier eating habits,” says the head of the study Signe Lund Mathiesen from Aarhus University.

A total of almost 300 men and women took part in the study. The test subjects were instructed to assess the taste of individual chocolate chips. Little did they know that what really mattered more was how long it took them to consume each sample. While eating, the test participants were subjected to one of several versions of a piano piece each, played through headphones.

The slow version of the soundtrack had a tempo of 45 beats per minute, with the fastest recording clocking at 180. In addition, the researchers varied the so-called musical articulation, which means that the individual notes were either connected to one another (legato) or separated from one another (staccato) .

Without any background music, the chocolate was consumed the fastest. With the slow legato music took, the participants took the longest — about ten percent longer than the fast versions — to eat the chocolate. Articulation only played a role in the slow version.

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The researchers also found that the test subjects liked the fast legato soundtrack best. The music, however, had no influence on the taste rating. Whether background music could actually help people not only eat more slowly but also less would have to be tested through further experiments, the researchers caution.

The researchers want to evaluate the food intake during normal breakfast or lunch and take into account the influence of the portion sizes served. By consuming it more slowly with the help of music, it could be possible to fill oneself up with smaller portions. Perhaps restaurant owners and canteen operators would also have an influence on how much time a guest spends on their meal by choosing the background music.

Stephan Meed

A southern gentleman at heart, Stephan is a man you'll find mudding, off-roading, and fishing on a typical weekend. However, a nutritionist by profession, he is also passionate about fitness and health through natural means. He writes mostly health-related content for the Scientific Origin.