Published in Applied Research
Altering food intake behaviour using emulsion droplet size
A study by researchers from the universities of Birmingham and Surrey (UK) and published in Food Quality and Preference has shown that altering oil droplet size and flavour of oil-in-water emulsions can enhance sensory characteristics and expected food intake behaviour.
Lett et al. note that obesity is increasing worldwide and so new approaches to promote weight loss are required. They suggest that foods with increased satiety, thus potentially reducing consumption and so energy intake, may be the answer. As previous studies have shown that sensory characteristics of food can have an effect on consumption, identifying the “satiety-relevant sensory cues” might allow food reformulation to increase satiating power but without reducing sensory appeal.
Lett et al. created water-in-oil emulsion samples with one of three flavours (vanilla, cream or no flavour) and at seven different mean droplet sizes, these being 0.19 µm (±0.02), 1.6 µm (±0.17), 5.9 µm (±0.65), 11.2 µm (±0.38), 20.2, µm (±0.83), 37.1 µm (±0.94), and 48.1 µm (±3.3).
The researchers then recruited untrained male participants who had been screened for food allergies, dietary habits and smoking status. The 24 chosen were aged between 18 and 26, had a mean BMI of 22.8 and had low restricted eating scores obtained from an eating behaviour questionnaire.  Women were excluded as they “typically practice significantly higher levels of restricted eating and other eating behaviours than males.”
Lett et al. asked the participants to randomly taste ordered samples and assess each for a variety of sensory attributes including vanilla flavour intensity, cream flavour intensity, sweetness, smoothness, thickness, slipperiness, creamy mouthfeel, overall creaminess, oiliness and liking.  Participants rated each sample for 5 expected food intake behaviour attributes including: Filling – measure of expected satiation if a 400g portion was consumed, Expected Hunger in 1 hr – measure of expected satiety in 1 hr if was 400g consumed now and Expected Desire to Eat in 1 hr – measure of expected appetite to eat 400g portion in 1 hr.
Following analysis, Lett et al. found that a number of sensory characteristics were dependent on oil droplet size. For instance, vanilla flavour intensity and cream flavour intensity both decreased significantly with increasing droplet size but sweetness did not differ with droplet size.  In addition, thickness, creamy mouthfeel, overall creaminess and liking all decreased significantly as droplet size increased but oiliness and slipperiness were not affected.
In terms of the food intake behaviour ratings, filling (satiety) and expected hunger in 1 hr were both related to oil droplet size. Filling significantly decreased with increasing size while expected hunger in 1 hr significantly increased with increasing droplet size. Expected desire to eat in 1 hr was not affected by droplet size and all three showed no association with flavour condition.
In conclusion, Lett et al. state that previous studies have shown that creaminess is strongly associated with the hedonic appeal of a food. As this study showed that overall creaminess and expected filling increased and expected hunger in 1 hr decreased with falling droplet size, they indicate that creaminess may provide a “key target attribute which can be manipulated through emulsion design to produce hedonically appropriate satiating foods”
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