A recent study from researchers at Cornell University presents evidence that airline passengers experience changes in their sense of taste due to the loud noise of the airplane engine in flight. Less sensitivity to sweetness and an increase in enjoyment of umami (EU) flavors were major findings. The study, which is making news globally, proposes that the effect on taste is due to stimulation of the chord tympani nerve in the middle ear.
News Drill Down
- Forbes discusses the close relationship between umami and sweetness. “Their receptors share a gene,” explains the article. “Both are pleasant sensations that stimulate similar patterns of brain activity.”
- The Cornell Chronicle highlights savory tomato (EU) as the flavor of choice for airplane passengers, noting that “German airline Lufthansa had noticed that passengers were consuming as much tomato juice (EU) as beer” during a study they commissioned.
- In an interview with Science World Report, study author Robin Dando explains, “the multisensory nature of what we consider ‘flavor’ is undoubtedly underpinned by complex central and peripheral interactions.”
- Hearing Review reports that “the study may guide reconfiguration of airline menus to match taste preferences in loud environments so that airline foods taste better to passengers.”
- Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance (available at ResearchGate.net)
- Cornell Chronicle: On planes, savory tomato becomes favored flavor
- cnet: Science identifies the best in-flight meal (if you care about taste)
- Science World Report: Airplane Noise May Actually Affect Our Perception of Taste
- The Hearing Review: Cornell University Study Finds Noise Affects Your Taste Buds
- Today Health: Airplane noise affects perception of taste, boosting umami, dulling sweets
- Forbes: Scientists Find a Surprising Reason Why Airplane Food Tastes Bad: Cabin Noise
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