Can We Fool Our Tastebuds?

The Lempert Report
January 17, 2023

Phil: So, Sally, it looks like technology is a way that we can avoid sugar, salt, maybe even fat. But it's all through utensils. It's not any medication, it's not any dieting. It's just like fooling our taste buds. Is this good? 

Sally: Well, considering the fact, Phil, that we have about 14% of our population here in the US that has diabetes, this could be really good news for them because they do have to limit their diets and can't have, you know, sugar in the way that regular people. But what's really cool is that these graduate students have developed this spoon that is called Sugarware, and it has sensors on it, little bumps on the bottom of the spoon. And when you use the spoon, it's supposed to add sweetness to the flavor of your food without actually adding sugar. 

Phil: But I guess my question is whether or not, you know, by fooling our taste buds this way, whether or not we're actually changing behavior. To me, it's almost like a bandaid that sure, when I use this spoon, you know, I don't have to have sugar, but I'm not losing my craving for sugar. And if in fact, I'm diabetic or, you know, some of them are for salt, sensations and so on, if in fact I'm not supposed to have those kinds of ingredients for health reasons using these utensils, could that just build on my desire to have that? And then when I forget my spoon, I'm just gonna load on the sugar.

Sally: That's a very good point. And you know, as we discussed last week, you know, about dry January and about diets, we have talked over and over about how research shows that these like, you know, big restrictions that we put on ourselves can sometimes make us go in the complete opposite direction. Instead of learning how to moderate our intake we've said it over and over. 

Phil: Now, part of this research, also finds that the weight, the color and the shape of normal utensils can change how we perceive the food's taste. So basically what you should do, what they recommend is try different spoons, try different things without these sensors. And you may find that, you know, using a certain spoon makes you think that something is sweeter.