Retro Woman with Turkey - © unknown via Pintrest

Why Eating On The Run Isn’t As Much Fun

You mother always said you should stop, sit and enjoy your food – an admonition to join in family meals and savour not only the food but the fellowship. She also said to chew everything ten times, and not just wolf your food down without tasting it. Turns out, she was right!

A Muppet Christmas Carol - © Henson CompanyParents can now show their kids scientific evidence that it’s better
to sit down and eat with their family than to eat and run,
or grab Fast Food while hanging with their cronies.

I’m continually amazed when researchers, using the so-called scientific method, always seem – sooner or later – to confirm things we’ve all learned through our own experience or been taught by our elders. Now, they claim they’ve proven that a sit-down meal is literally more pleasurable than  eating on the run.

What they did

A group of 350 test subjects was asked to rate the ‘tastiness’ of a Pita Chip. Half of them tasted the Chip while standing and the other half tasted it while sitting.

Researchers also had a local bakery prepare a large batch of Brownies and repeated the tasting exercise. Following that, they asked the same people to rate another Brownie that was identical to the first except that it contained excess Salt, which should have made it less pleasant to eat.

What they found

Those who tasted the Pita Chips while standing rated them less flavourful than those who were sitting. And those who were standing when they tasted the Brownies also rated them less pleasant than those who were sitting.

Conversely, those who tasted the over-Salted Brownies standing found them less unpleasant than those who tasted them while seated. In fact, many of those who tasted them while standing rated them more pleasant the original, properly-Salted Brownies.

In other words, stuff that normally tastes good tasted better while sitting than when standing, but stuff that doesn’t taste so good didn’t taste as bad when standing.

The takeaway

Study Lead Author, Dr. Dipayan Biswas, postulates that, “[H]olding a standing posture for even a few minutes prompts physical stress, muting taste buds. The force of gravity pushes blood to the lower parts of the body, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood back up to the top of the body, accelerating heart rate. This activates the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and leads to increased concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol. This chain reaction reduces sensory sensitivity, which impacts food and beverage taste evaluation, food temperature perception and overall consumption volume.”

Or, in practical terms, Biswas says: “[P]arents might be able to make unpleasant-tasting, healthy foods seem more palatable to reluctant children by having them eat standing up (vs. sitting down). In a similar vein, it might be beneficial to maintain a standing posture when consuming pharmaceutical products that have unpleasant tastes.”

My take

As I said at the top of this post, folks have known for ages that eating sitting down (and taking your time eating) is more pleasurable than ‘eating on the run’. Now science has proven this old chestnut to be true. I also agree with the good Dr.’s speculations about the practical usefulness of this knowledge. But I’d like to see some practical studies involving picky eaters and folks who hate the taste of their meds to see just how pronounced the relative effects of standing vs. sitting are.

Perhaps more important, from a social perspective, is that parents can show their kids scientific evidence that it’s better to sit down and eat with the family than to eat and run, or grab Fast Food while hanging with their cronies.

~ Maggie J.