Here’s another explanation for why your food tastes blander or just… different aboard an airplane: Scientists have connected a loud auditory environment (like the pressurized cabin of an airplane) to a change in our food taste perception.Researchers from Cornell University had 48 men and women consume liquid solutions of the five basic flavors: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami, in a room with regular ambient noise, and again in a room with simulated airplane noise. The results? Louder noises make us perceive foods as less sweet with a more pronounced umami flavor.
“It is clear that taste perception depends not only on the multisensory integration of sensory inputs associated with the food or drink itself but also on the multisensory attributes of the environment in which the sample is consumed,” the researchers said in their study published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. “Our results characterize a novel sensory interaction, with intriguing implications for the effect of the environment in which we consume food.”
Interestingly enough, airplane food already has a reputation for tasting strange. In previous coverage, we’ve attributed that bit of quirky science to low air pressure reducing oxygen flow. However, now we know that altered taste perceptions might also be due to the roar of the engines during take-off.