Stuffing Chips - © Michael Moss - Salt Sugar Fat Book

Salty Snacks Alert: Size Does Matter – Not Just Volume…

An interesting new view on why we tend to over-eat snacks – especially the salty, fatty, crunchy ones. Researchers say the size of individual snack pieces can significantly effect the total amount of junk food we’ll eat at a ‘sitting’…

Pretzels - © 2024 - readyseteat.comPretzels: Key to the mystery…

An abstract of the study findings makes its goal crystal clear: “With nearly a quarter of daily calorie intake in the United States coming from snacks, these findings may have implications for helping people better understand how eating behavior impacts calorie and sodium intake. ”

What they did

The team, from Penn State University (PSU), “investigated how the size of pretzels influences eating behavior – overall intake, eating rate, bite size and snacking duration.”

The researchers offered 75 adult subjects three snack-eating experiences at different times. Each of those sessions involved different-sized pretzels; small, medium and large.

The team video recorded each subject in each of their three snacking trials, “noting how many minutes each participant spent snacking and the number of bites. They also measured how much each participant ate in both weight and calories.”

What they found

The results of the experiment were not as simple to interpret as the researchers initially expected. But they did make statistical sense. Subjects consistently ate 31 percent more large pretzels than small ones. And 22 percent more large ones than medium sized ones.

The overall finding was that – apparently – the larger pretzels prompted subjects to take large bites and eat faster.

The takeaway

“The study suggests that food structure – texture, size and shape – can be used to modulate eating behavior and food intake,” Study Corresponding Author Professor John Hayes explained. “Food geometry, specifically unit size, is of particular utility for snack foods. We’re interested in how the material properties of foods can be harnessed to help people eat less without impacting their enjoyment.”

“So, we’re suggesting that if you’re trying to watch your calorie intake or are trying to reduce the amount that you’re eating in a snack, then maybe a smaller pretzel would meet your needs better, because of the inherent way the size of the pretzel affects your eating rate,” added Madeline Harper, a graduate student in Food Science and Lead Author on the Study.

My take

It sounds like a sound hypothesis to me. And it explains – to me – why I snack the way I do. In this respect, at least, I can say I am ‘average’.

However, I must point out that the researchers focuses solely on salty crunchables. And this, to me, limits the value, as well as the scope of their findings.

For example… We’re all hard-wired to crave salt, fat and sugar. And that strikes me as another separate but significant factor in snack consumption behaviour. I’d really like to see if the ‘snack unit size’ model holds true for sweet snacks and and other ‘grab-and-g0’ foods…

~ Maggie J.