Nutritional Psychiatry and the “Bowl” Movement
Have you ever wondered how much of eating is really about hunger or pleasure, and how much is influenced by purely psychological factors? Oxford University professor Charles Spence, who works in the field of experiential psychology, is a scientist who studies the effects of “multisensory”, that is, experiences in which several of the five senses are used together, on the brain, with a special focus on the reflections of this multisensory experience on gastronomy. In his 2017 groundbreaking book “Gastrophysics – The New Science of Eating”, Spence cites research that shows that a meal served on a red plate is perceived as less tasty, while potato chips that crunch and crackle louder are 15% fresher and tastier.
While the inextricable link between smell and taste has long been known to those interested in the subject, combinations where hearing is associated with taste, such as the “sonic-chip” potato chip study I just mentioned – the perception that the louder the crunch, the tastier the chip – and the knowledge that listening to Nina Simon stimulates the appetite and listening to Justin Bieber inhibits the appetite, for example, are relatively new and carefully monitored in the gastronomy world.
At the heart of it, Spence says, “there cannot be a neutral way of eating that is independent of everything else in the environment, focused only on food,” through his work in gastrophysics. This angers some chefs who focus entirely on flavor. However, even if you focus only on the food, even if you eat in the dark, there is not much to do in the face of the fact that even the weight of the cutlery used while eating affects the flavor. “An argument can be made that it should be eaten by hand, but there are research results showing that this also increases the flavor on the palate. It is true that eating hamburgers by hand has played a role in the worldwide popularity of hamburgers or the rise of Indian cuisine. Not only that, but one of the examples that can be multiplied endlessly is the “bowl” trend, which combines both the senses of smell and touch with taste and has spread rapidly from the Far East to the world, that is, eating different dishes in a single bowl as a meal is a phenomenon that has a gastrophysical explanation; Of course, the combination of ramen, eggs and vegetables in a bowl is a great combination of flavors, but beyond that, when we sit at the table and lean over a plate, when we take the bowl in our hands, we bring it closer to our nose and smell the warm food. Then, because the bowl is in the palm of our hand, we feel its weight. Eating something that feels heavy in the hand is also proven by research to be more satisfying, Spence’s articles tell us…
Multisensory gastronomy experiences are going on everywhere at any time, even if we are not very aware of it. Today, we are now talking about a field such as nutritional psychiatry. Patients with anxiety and depression symptoms are advised to eat foods such as oysters, mussels, oily fish, which are rich in omega 3 supplements. Today, psychiatrists are working with chefs and nutritionists as research continues into how what we eat affects our mental health. Felice Jacka, PhD, of Deakin University in Australia and President of the International Society of Nutritional Psychiatry, is known for her pioneering work showing that food is a factor in mental health and that women who eat vegetables, fruit, fish and a moderate amount of red meat are less prone to depression than women who eat junk and empty foods.
Jacka, who has a new book called “Brain Changer”, said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper: “At first, many people were skeptical of my work because psychiatry focuses on specific molecules in the brain that respond to a particular drug. But in doing so, we missed the bigger picture: how complex the body is…”
Although these studies have a long way to go, the researchers’ first recommendation for a healthy and happy mood and a life free from depression is to adopt a diet that is close to the traditional diet of the pre-industrial revolution, avoiding processed foods and emphasizing vegetables, fruits, fish and legumes. Although this model varies from country to country, this is the general principle. For example, while the Japanese diet rich in tofu, seaweed and fish is very healthy for them, we can think of our own traditional diet as a balanced Mediterranean-style diet.
Apart from the pleasure and happiness of eating delicious and favorite things, it is now scientifically accepted that the content of what we eat deeply affects our mental health as well as our body and physical health, and the field of gastronomy, inspired by synesthesia, gastrophysics, and now nutritional psychiatry, seems to continue to bring new concepts and ways of eating to our tables, how much of which we really choose and how much of which is affected by environmental and sensory factors that we think we actually choose…