Edible 'Stop Signs' in Food Could Help Control OvereatingMonday, May 14, 2012
Subtle visual cues may change how much people eat, shows a Cornell University study. In the study, 98 college students were given potato chips to eat while watching videos. Half of the students received ordinary tubes of chips, while the other half received tubes of chips with a red-colored chip inserted every seven chips (the suggested serving size), or every 14 chips. In a follow-up study, colored chips were inserted every five and 10 chips. The students did not know why some chips were a different color, yet those with the colored chips consumed 50 percent fewer chips than those who did not have colored chips. The group with segmented chips more accurately estimated how many chips they ate compared to those without the colored chips. "People generally eat what is put in front of them if it is palatable," says researcher Brian Wansink. "An increasing amount of research suggests that some people use visual indication—such as a clean plate or bottom of a bowl—to tell them when to stop eating. By inserting visual markers in a snack food package, we may be helping them to monitor how much they are eating and interrupt their semi-automated eating habits." The study suggests that marking or otherwise delineating a reasonable portion size would help combat obesity and effectively reduce food intake.