Many people prefer rich, fatty yogurt or ice cream over lighter alternatives, and it’s not just because of the taste. According to brain researcher Fabian Grabenhorst at Oxford University, these high-fat products are addictive due to their mouthfeel. Research has shown that the brain area linked to food sensations and attractiveness, the orbitofrontal cortex, is stimulated by fatty foods.
To test this, Grabenhorst and his colleagues created vanilla-flavored milkshakes with varying fat and sugar content, as well as non-fat thickening agents used by the food industry. They also measured the sliding friction and viscosity of the milkshakes using pig tongues. The test subjects were then asked to taste and rate the milkshakes, revealing the effect of the milkshakes’ composition on their brain activity and preference.
Mouthfeel also plays a large role in people’s food choices, as was demonstrated by the test subjects’ choice of curries with different fat content for lunch. The study concluded that the reaction of the orbitofrontal cortex to greasy mouthfeel largely influences food preferences. Grabenhorst has suggested that these findings could lead to the development of low-calorie foods. The study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.