Food is one of the many sources of satisfaction among humans and animals. Different food items provide varied benefits in physical and mental health. In a new study, international researchers discovered that eating vanilla yogurt could help make people happy and improve mood.

The researchers wanted to determine the unconscious emotional and definite impacts of food consumption. To employ a simple method, they performed several experiments and compared the results exhibited by three groups with at least 24 participants, who were subjected to pairs of yogurts with same brands but different flavors and fat content. The experiments had two sessions with an interval of one week.

The first experiment is eye tracking, wherein the researchers observed different aspects of the participants' visual inspection of yogurt packages. Expected liking without food consumption was observed next, followed by a product familiarity test.

Next, the participants were given one of the two versions of products. While they were eating the yogurt with eyes blindfolded, the researchers monitored their facial reactions.

A specialized test called emotive projection test (EPT) was performed next. EPT involved rating six positive and six negative traits of other participants after eating the yogurt.

The last step of the experiment is the autobiographical test (ACT), wherein the mood of the subjects were measured based on how quickly they could think of a happy or sad life event.

The findings of the experiments showed that liking and being familiar with the food item had no impact on the participants' emotions. Changes in liking, however, were noted after they have tasted the yogurt. Moods were significantly influenced when the study subjects were pleasantly surprised or disappointed about the food.

As for the sensory effects of yogurt, the researchers found that those who ate strawberry and pineapple variants did not exhibit variations in emotional responses. Low-fat versions, however, elicited more positive emotional reactions.

Specifically, theos researchers found that eating vanilla yogurt caused a great positive emotion, backing up past evidence that subtle vanilla scent in places like hospital waiting areas could help lower aggressive reactions and boost relationships among patients and staff.

The study suggests a good method on how to effectively obtain data about a product before marketing it. Conventionally, product trials are conducted via explicit procedures like directly asking people how they feel about the goods. In the new study, the authors used an implicit method; hence, the results were not influenced by people's conscious thinking.

"We were looking for a valid, quick and not too expensive and time-consuming method to measure the emotions or mood changes evoked by food," said study lead author Dr. Jozina Mojet from Food and Biobased Research. She believes sensory and consumer research should be performed in an ecological manner.

The study was published in the journal Food and Research International.

Photo: Indi Samarajiva | Flickr

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