Study looks at funny faces we pull eat­ing foods we dis­like

Aim of re­search is to find ways of mak­ing healthy foods seem more ap­peal­ing to the scep­ti­cal who spurn good eat­ing

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - News - NADIA VIDI­NOVA nvidi­nova@the­courier.co.uk

The of­ten-bizarre faces we pull in re­sponse to dis­gust­ing food will be the fo­cus of new anal­y­sis at Abertay Univer­sity.

Re­searchers are in­ves­ti­gat­ing how fa­cial move­ments and ex­pres­sions can be used to gauge the like­abil­ity of new health food prod­ucts.

Car­ried out in the Dundee univer­sity’s new £3.5 mil­lion science labs which opened ear­lier this sum­mer, the project will seek to de­velop a tool that can show the link be­tween a per­son’s fa­cial re­ac­tion and the sen­sory stim­u­lus that pro­voked the change.

In the long term, the re­search could hold the key to pro­duc­ing a new range of health foods de­signed to be more ap­peal­ing to the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Dr John Grigor, of Abertay’s Di­vi­sion of Food and Drink, said: “We have all pulled a face when we taste, see or smell some­thing un­pleas­ant.

“This project aims to dis­cover more about how that sen­sory re­la­tion­ship with food works with a view to po­ten­tially find­ing ways to make healthy foods more ap­peal­ing.

De­spite the in­crease in gen­eral knowl­edge about how to se­lect a healthy diet, some peo­ple still con­sis­tently make un­healthy food choices.

In ad­di­tion, the food in­dus­try has a high fail­ure rate in terms of new health food prod­uct launches.

There­fore, un­der­stand­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween how peo­ple rate foods in terms of their sen­sory char­ac­ter­is­tics and how these rat­ings re­late to “lik­ing” is a key part of op­ti­mis­ing the new prod­uct de­vel­op­ment process.

As of yet no for­mal technique has been de­vel­oped and val­i­dated which can re­li­ably pre­dict this re­la­tion­ship.

A funded Master by Re­search stu­dentship is avail­able to as­sist progress, in­clud­ing a tax-free stipend of £14,553 a year, paid tu­ition fees and a gen­er­ous study pack­age with travel bud­get and train­ing.

The project will uniquely com­bine real-time eat­ing and phys­i­o­log­i­cal mea­sures of sub­jects, while ob­serv­ing sen­sory and fa­cial re­sponses.

Ear­lier this month Abertay’s Di­vi­sion of Food and Drink was ranked top in Scot­land and 9th in the UK in the Guardian Good Univer­sity Guide.

NADIA VIDI­NOVA

I’ve al­ways been a fussy eater, so when I was asked to sam­ple some health foods with odd tex­ture and un­usual taste, I ex­pected to make some un­flat­ter­ing faces.

My col­leagues got me to try smoked tofu, beet­root juice and a ve­gan nu­tri­tional shake in a bid to record – and laugh at – my re­ac­tions.

First up the shake. I could taste the vanilla, plus some­thing else rem­i­nis­cent of herbs or some other plant. I did frown at first, but it’s the kind of thing I could start to like.

Next I tried the beet­root juice, with pre­dictable re­sults see­ing as I dis­like beet­root. I def­i­nitely won’t be try­ing that one again.

Lastly I took a bite out of the smoked tofu, which didn’t look very ap­peal­ing. How­ever it was much bet­ter than I ex­pected.

Over­all I’d say I could get used to the foods – ex­cept the beet­root juice – but they wouldn’t be my first choice if other al­ter­na­tives were avail­able.

Pic­tures: Kris Miller.

Our in­trepid reporter Nadia con­firms her sus­pi­cions about the beet­root juice ... then is pleas­antly sur­prised by the tofu.

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