TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why We Like Food That Makes Noise

TIME.com stock photos Food Snacks Potato Chips
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

What your food 'sounds' like affects how good it tastes, a new study says

The crunch of a chip, the snap of a carrot, or the fizz of a freshly opened beverage may greatly influence just how good we think those foods taste, according to new flavor research.

Flavor perception is multi-sensory. “The flavor of food is reduced to a mere whisper when its scent is lost,” chef Molly Birnbaum once said. In a new report published in the journal Flavour, researcher Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University reviews a wide variety of research related to sound and flavor perception, and comes to the conclusion that what a food sounds like is incredibly important to the experience of eating it. That sound, he says, is the “forgotten flavor sense.”

“Our brains are all the time trying to pick up correlations in the environment,” says Spence. According to his research, people use sounds to assess how tasty food is, even if they don’t realize it. In one of the studies he highlights, consumers used the word “crisp” more than any other descriptor when they were asked to evaluate 79 foods. Another study completed in 2007 by University of Leeds researchers to determine just how important bacon crispiness is to a BLT, the lead researcher concluded: “We often think it’s the taste and smell of bacon that consumers find most attractive. But our research proves that texture and the crunching sound is just—if not more—important.”

Science has also shown that changing the sounds a food makes can influence a person’s perception of it. In his own prior research, Spence showed that people give carbonated beverages higher ratings when the sound of the bubbles popping becomes louder and more frequent.

But why is the way food sounds important to us? For one, Spence says it could be that sound is an indicator for texture and therefore quality. Texture can reveal how fresh food is. If an apple cracks crisply when it’s bitten into, instead of yielding without a snap, you know that’s a good sign.

Even soft foods, like bread, bananas or mousse can make subtle sounds when they’re bitten, sliced or plunged into with a spoon, and Spence says he believes the commercialization of sounds in the food industry may soon be growing in a big way.

“It’s going to start out with modernist chefs,” Spence predicts. Food modifications could also be used to help make food more pleasurable for the elderly whose overall senses may be decreasing, he adds.

Outside sound can also influence perception, and it doesn’t require much effort. “If I’m having Italian food and I’m hearing music of that region, it may make me perceive the food as more authentic,” he says. Even the ice cream company Häagen-Dazs launched an app where customers can scan their ice cream carton and listen to a violin concerto timed to allow the ice cream to soften.

Still, Spence says he largely feels like sound isn’t being considered in the food industry as often as it could be. A 2003 survey of 14o food scientists showed they rated sound as the least important attribute contributing to flavor. But as research continues to emerge and the industry continues to experiment, we may be listening to our food more often.

TIME ebola

American Patient With Ebola Has Condition Upgraded

The patient is now in serious, rather than critical, condition

The American patient being treated for Ebola is improving, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The NIH announced on Thursday that the patient has had her condition upgraded from critical to serious. The patient, who was working to combat Ebola in Sierra Leone, arrived at the NIH in Bethesda, Md. on March 13 for treatment.

The patient is one of 17 volunteers for Partners in Health who were brought to the United States for precautionary monitoring. The NIH has not released any further details about the patient.

The American patient is the second to be treated by the NIH for Ebola. The team also treated Dallas nurse Nina Pham who was infected after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

The current Ebola outbreak reached one year this week. So far 24,927 people have been infected and 10,338 people have died from the disease.

TIME Addiction

A New Government Anti-Smoking Campaign Includes E-Cigs

Past campaigns have increased calls to quitlines by 80%

A new federal ad campaign against smoking features e-cigarettes for the first time.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest ad in its ongoing “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign. The campaign features real Americans who have experienced serious health or social consequences from smoking. Often the ads are explicit. On March 30, the first ad about e-cigarettes, as opposed to traditional tobacco, will air.

The ad features a 35-year-old woman named Kristy who picked up e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. She ended up using both products. Eventually she had a collapsed lung and was diagnosed with lung disease. She’s a married mother of three who works as a truck driver.

Kristy's Tip Print Full Page Ad
CDC

“Nationally, about 3 in 4 adult e-cigarette users also smoke cigarettes,” the CDC says in a statement. “If you only cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke by adding another tobacco product, like e-cigarettes, you still face serious health risks.”

Other ads focus on side effects like vision loss and colorectal cancer.

In 2014, the CDC says the national quit line received 80% more calls when the ads were on the air, and since 2012 the ads have generated more than 500,000 additional calls. The ads will run for 20 weeks on TV, radio, online, billboards, in theaters and in magazines and newspapers. Kristy’s ads will be on the radio and in print.

The ads encourage smokers to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit www.cdc.gov/tips.

Read next: These 4D Ultrasound Photos Show How Fetuses Respond to Their Mothers’ Smoking

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Research

Google Granted Patent for Smart Contact Lens

This undated photo released by Google shows a contact lens Google is testing to explore tear glucose.
Google/AP Google's smart contact lenses.

May allow people with diabetes to easily measure glucose levels

Google has been granted a patent for a contact lens with an embedded chip,

The patent, which was discovered by WebProNews, features a sensor in the lens. Google has previously said that it is partnering with the pharmaceutical company Novartis to create a smart contact lens that could monitor blood sugar for people with diabetes.

As TIME has previously reported, Google has been testing various prototypes of smart contact lens and is currently in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about a lens that measures glucose levels in users’ tears. The company says the chip and sensor are embedded between two layers of contact lens material and a tiny pinhole lets tear fluid from the eye reach the glucose sensor, and the sensor can measure levels every second.

Diabetics must currently prick their fingers throughout the day to measure blood sugar levels, but Google believes the contact lenses would be less invasive and allow people with diabetes to check glucose more often and more easily.

When asked if the patent is indeed for the smart contact lens for diabetes patients, Google told TIME the company does not comment on patent filings. “We hold patents on a variety of ideas—some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents,” a Google spokesperson said in an email.

TIME Research

High Blood Pressure Related Deaths Are Way Up: CDC

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Hypertension is a factor in many U.S. deaths

Deaths related to high blood pressure, have risen significantly over the last 13 years, according to new federal data.

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics shows the number of hypertension-related deaths increased 61.8%, from 2000 to 2013. The researchers analyzed national cause-of-death data files and defined hypertension-related death as any mention of hypertension on the death certificate. They found that over the 13 year period, the rate rose for both sexes age 45 and older.

But report also found that the proportion of deaths where heart disease was the underlying cause of death dropped by about 6%. The proportion of deaths where stroke was the underlying cause also dropped by about 5%.

“In the areas we’ve been focusing on for the last two to three decades we really have seen a reduction in deaths,” says Dr. Clyde Yancy chief of the division of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “The lens has to increase now. This is an important message to get out that there are multiple reasons you want to get rid of hypertension, not just reducing stroke and heart disease, but minimizing the impact on diabetes and reducing your risk for cancer.” Yancy was not involved in the research.

While it is generally accepted that high blood pressure can lead to heart-related problems, studies have also shown links between hypertension and other chronic diseases. For instance, prior data has shown that hypertension can increase the risk of dying from cancer and developing the disease in the first place. The researchers report that heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes accounted for 65% of all the deaths with a mention of hypertension in 2000 and 54% in 2013.

Overall, the report shows that one out of six hypertension-related deaths was due to high blood pressure as the underlying cause. In the other deaths, high blood pressure was listed as a contributing factor.

TIME Environment

Americans Don’t Care That Much About the Environment, Poll Shows

Rain drops on green leaf
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Americans concerns near record lows

Americans care less about environmental issues now than they have in the past—and they’re no more worried about global warming than they were decades ago, a new poll shows.

The Gallup survey released on Wednesday shows Americans were more concerned about the environment in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but interested dropped off in the early 2000s. Since then it’s remained close to historic lows. And when it comes to global warming specifically, Americans are no more worried now than they were in 1989.

In the recent survey, which questioned 1,025 U.S. adults in early March, Americans reported feeling the most concerned about drinking polluted water and least worried about global warming. In 1989, 35% of the men and women surveyed said they cared a great deal about climate change, but only 32% said the same thing in 2015. Even when it came to polluted water, just 55% of Americans reported caring a great deal, down from 65% in 1990.

Gallup notes that the state of the economy could play a roll in how concerned Americans are about the environment. Americans tend to give environmental concerns a higher priority when the economy is doing well, Gallup says.

TIME ebola

Ebola Vaccine Trial Starts in Guinea

A health worker prepares a vaccination on March 10, 2015 at a health center in Conakry during the first clinical trials of the VSV-EBOV vaccine against the Ebola virus.
CELLOU BINANI Cellou Binani—AFP/Getty A health worker prepares a vaccination on March 10, 2015 at a health center in Conakry during the first clinical trials of the VSV-EBOV vaccine against the Ebola virus.

10,000 people will be vaccinated

An efficacy trial for an Ebola vaccine launched in Guinea on Wednesday.

The vaccine, VSV-EBOV, was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and has already shown positive results in smaller safety trials. NewLink Genetics and Merck are collaborating on the vaccine, and the Guinean government and World Health Organization (WHO) are leading the trial, which is taking place in Basse-Guinée, a community where many Ebola cases spread.

MORE: 14 Emotional Dispatches From Key Ebola Fighters

The trial is using what’s called a “ring vaccination” strategy, which means that when a person is infected with Ebola, a group, or ring, of their contacts will be vaccinated. Some of the contacts will be vaccinated immediately, and some will be vaccinated three weeks later. The format was chosen so that everyone could get the vaccine, instead of giving some people a placebo. The hope is that the people who are vaccinated will create a “ring of immunity” from the virus, which could prevent its spread. Similar strategies have been used for smallpox, according to the WHO.

The trial plans to vaccinate 10,000 people in 190 rings in the next six to eight weeks, and all of those vaccinated will be followed for three months. The trial is voluntary, and researchers estimate that results may be available in July.

“We are committed to ending this epidemic,” said Dr. Sakoba Keita, the national coordinator of the Ebola fight in Guinea, in a statement. “Combined with control measures that we are putting in place with our partners, a safe and effective vaccine will allow us to close this trying chapter and start rebuilding our country.”

A total of 3,429 people have been infected with Ebola in Guinea, and 2,263 have died. The country recently experienced an uptick in cases.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

There Might Be More Nutritious Chocolate On the Horizon

Chocolate Splash
Getty Images

Researchers create a new process to make chocolate richer in antioxidants

Scientists are looking to make chocolate a not-so-guilty pleasure.

Emmanuel Ohene Afoakwa, a professor of food science and technology at the University of Ghana, and his team have figured out a new process for making chocolate that’s healthier and contains more antioxidants. Chocolate’s antioxidants are thought to be responsible for some of its health perks related to cardiovascular health and memory support. Capitalizing on those antioxidants could not only provide better nutrition, but could be of interest to the candy industry. The researchers presented their process at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Denver on Tuesday.

Afoakwa and his team showed that tweaks to the storage and roasting processes can result in chocolate with more healthy compounds, but still the same sweet flavor.

The trick is to intervene in one of the many steps before cocoa turns into the chocolate. In typical chocolate-making, pods are first taken from cocoa trees and the cocoa beans are extracted, fermented and roasted. But during the roasting process many of the polyphenols, or antioxidants, in cocoa beans are lost. To protect them, the researchers decided to add a storage step to the process. They split 3oo pods into four different storage groups: no storage, three-day storage, seven-day storage and 10-day storage. The researchers found that seven days of storage resulted in the highest antioxidant levels after roasting.

Next, the researchers experimented with the roasting process, since that’s when most antioxidant content is lost. Normally beans are roasted for 10 to 20 minutes at 248-266 degrees Fahrenheit, the researchers say, but they decided to slow the process down and instead roast the beans at 242 degrees for 45 minutes. The lower temperature and longer roasting process also resulted in higher antioxidant activity compared to the beans that went through the usual roasting.

“I have been working on cocoa for some time, and my interest is on creating techniques that can enhance the flavor and the quality of the beans,” says Afoakwa. “We’re trying to find out how some of these practices can be enhanced to help farmers produce beans of higher quality.”

Afoakwa says his team recommends consumers choose dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate since dark chocolate typically has more antioxidants and less sugar. The researchers are continuing to identify changes to the chocolate-making process that could increase the candy’s nutritional content. The researchers are currently receiving funding from the Belgium government.

“We believe there will be a high benefit for confectionary industry,” Afoakwa says.

TIME White House

Obama Rubs Elbows With Some Inventive Girl Scouts

President Obama Hosts White House Science Fair
Aude Guerrucci—Pool/Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with a group of six-year-old Girls Scouts from Tulsa Oklahoma who designed a battery powered page turner to help people who are paralyzed or have arthritis at the 2015 White House Science Fair in Washington on March 23, 2015.

The 6-year-old inventors were attending the 2015 White House Science Fair

President Obama spent some quality time with a group of six-year-old Girl Scouts from Tulsa, Oklahoma on Monday as part of the 2015 White House Science Fair.

The Girl Scouts—also known by the nickname “Supergirls”—attended the science fair after designing a battery-powered page turner meant to help people who are paralyzed or suffer from movement-related diseases like arthritis. They used Legos as the building blocks for the development of their prototype.

The White House Science Fair features projects from innovative students around the United States. This year’s fair is focusing on girls and women who are doing extraordinary things in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

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