Predictive models for long-term liking of foods

Project leader: Prof Gert ter Horst
Time frame: 2011 – 2016
Project code: SL001
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The psychological and biological mechanisms by which food properties affect (long-term) liking and desire for certain foods are still to be unravelled. As global populations of the elderly and medical patients continue to increase, there is a specific need for a better understanding of the effects of ageing and disease on these mechanisms. Both advancing age and medical treatments might change individual appreciation of specific tastes. For these groups, long-term acceptance of foods is essential as food aversion could result in malnutrition.

The project has demonstrated how product-related emotions contribute to food choice, which neuronal systems underlie liking and disliking, and how product-consumer combinations determine long-term choice behaviour. We studied the neuronal pathways of basic taste perception, across adult age ranges, using functional MRI. These results, which combine psychological and neurobiological studies, are important to our goal of developing effective models for the prediction of long-term acceptance of food products by healthy consumers, the elderly and patients.

The results of the project will enable the food industry, scientists and decision-makers to develop dietary strategies and product formulations tailor-made for specific consumer groups, with a higher chance of long-term success. Clear benefits will include improved quality of life for these groups and reduced (medical) care costs.