> Spice Up Your Life (& Diet) with Musical Accompaniment - The Food Safety Company Spice Up Your Life (& Diet) with Musical Accompaniment - The Food Safety Company
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    Thursday, 16 March 2017

    Spice Up Your Life (& Diet) with Musical Accompaniment

    Before you start, this has nothing to do with Geri, Victoria, Emma, and the Mels (sorry), although according to new research conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford, a little music alongside your curry really could spice up your life.

    Ok, I’ll stop with the terrible ‘humour’ and try to stick to the facts.

    The research, recently published in the scientific journal Food Quality and Preference, sought to identify musical elements that may be associated with, or increase the perception of, spiciness in food. They began by asking volunteers to identify the music they most associated with spicy food from a selection of 36 songs, before a group of 180 volunteers were asked to eat a battered butternut squash, dusted with ancho chilli and served with a spicy sauce, while they listened to short clips of the soundtracks, white noise or silence.

    The research team found that those listening to soundtracks containing faster tempos, a higher pitch and distorted sounds experienced an increase in perceived spiciness as compared to those listening to white noise or silence, as part of an effect now known as “sonic seasoning”. In some cases, specific soundtracks were able to increase the spiciness of food by up to 10%, with shrill violin concerto or fast samba music proving to be the most effective.

    Lead author of the study Professor Charles Spence, an experimental food psychologist at the University of Oxford, said that Indian music in particular, due to the inclusion of shrill, distorted notes, fast beats, and high pitched singing, could significantly enhance the spiciness of a curry:

    “Some of qualities we identify for spicy music in our study are also reminiscent of Indian music. We are looking at a 5-10pc change normally.”

    Janice Wang, a psychologist at the University of Oxford who worked alongside Professor Spence on the study, attempted to shine some light on the process behind this experience, stating that, “We hypothesise this is because the spicy soundtrack primes people's expectation of spiciness in the food. We are not sure whether it's exposure to this type of music that makes people associate spiciness with high pitch and distortion.

    “Another idea is that high pitch, high distortion, and fast tempo are associated with high energy, and that reflects the sensation of eating spicy foods.

    “People found that fast tempo, high pitch, and high levels of distortion matched well with spiciness. Any music with those characteristics would be more likely associated with spiciness. If there's a cultural element - say with Indian or Brazilian influence - that can only make the association stronger.”

    So, next time you’re absent-mindedly humming along to the background music on a night out at a restaurant, bear in mind that those subtle tones may actually be making a significant contribution to your meal itself. Unfortunately, the Spice Girls themselves don’t make the list.

    Sam Bonson

    Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.
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