A new study published on Feb. 19 in the academic journal Food Quality and Preference found that the noise one hears while eating influences the amount of food a person eats. It turns out that the more an individual is aware of his chewing, chomping or crunching, the less likely he eats too much, a phenomenon researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) and Colorado State University (CSU) call the “Crunch Effect.”

People become more conscious of their consumption if there are no competing sounds from TV or music players that can mask their eating sound. According to CSU’s assistant professor and study co-author Gina Mohr, many would not consider sound as an important sensory factor during eating, alongside taste and sight.

“Sound is typically labelled as the forgotten food sense,” BYU’s Marriott School of Management assistant professor Ryan Elder adds in a press release. “But if people are more focused on the sound the food makes, it could reduce consumption.”

A student eats a pretzel while listening to music. A new BYU-CSU study finds that if you mask eating sounds you may eat more. Photo by BYU/Jaren Wilkey

A student eats a pretzel while listening to music. A new BYU-CSU study finds that if you mask eating sounds you may eat more. Photo by BYU/Jaren Wilkey

To verify how eating sounds keep an individual’s consumption in check, they asked each of their experiment’s participant to eat while wearing headphones that played either loud or mellower sounds. The more intense the sound is, the less people eat. Those who listened to louder noise ate four pretzels while those listened to quieter sounds only ate 2.75 pretzels.

Moreover, one of their experiments revealed that even asking the study participants to only think of these eating sounds while eating actually decreased their consumption. Hence, the research team suggests that consumers should also consider the sound of eating aside from the food taste or appearance to avoid gaining too much weight.

“When you mask the sound of consumption, like when you watch TV while eating, you take away one of those senses and it may cause you to eat more than you would normally,” concludes Elder. “The effects many not seem huge–one less pretzel–but over the course of a week, month, or year, it could really add up.”