Sensory Science Can Help Solve Loss of Appetite

For most of our lives, many of us are fighting a constant battle of trying to eat less to maintain a healthy weight. Tasty foods and large portion sizes are alluring throughout most of childhood and adulthood. There are certain times, though, when the opposite is true. Some people struggle with loss of appetite and are unable to eat enough to nourish their bodies.

Grandchild sharing yogurt with grandmother

This happens as we get older and our senses become less responsive, when taking medications that suppress appetite as a side effect, and in diseases like cancer that often reduce appetite. Many times these are the same populations that need to be eating to get better!

For a long time, the solution to this was to try to make the beverages taste better via flavors, more sweetness, etc. However, research is showing that changing the sensory profile, like thickness and mouthfeel, may be more effective.

In a recent study in the journal Food Quality and Preference, authors including Kerry’s own Sensory Science Director Dr. Ben Lawlor and researchers from Wageningen University explored how we can use sensory science to make oral nutrition supplements more appealing. The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of sweetness intensity and thickness on intake and sensory sequential profile of an oral nutrition supplement (ONS). It was hypothesized that lower sweetness intensity and thickness would decrease oro-sensory stimulation and satiety, improve the sensory profile, and thus, improve ONS intake.

Listen to Dr. Ben Lawlor talk about sensory science’s role in nutrition and beverages in our webinar Better Beverages: The Future is Nutrition

What they found was that nutritional content isn’t the only consideration when it comes to developing these supplements. Sweetness level had no impact on consumption or satiety, but reducing the thickness of the beverage resulted in 33% increased intake. In other words, the sensory cues of nutritional beverages might be more important than the taste when it comes to oral nutrition supplements. For products tailored for populations with low appetite, collaboration with sensory scientists may be a key consideration.

Read the full study here.