All Bach and no bite: how classical music will put you off your burger

By Joe Pinkstone
Fast food illustration - The Telegraph
Fast food illustration - The Telegraph

Listening to Bach or Beethoven can help people avoid eating fast food such as burgers and chips, a study has found.

However, people who do listen to classical music are more prone to ordering desserts and eating both healthy and indulgent sweet foods, like yoghurt and chocolate, respectively. 

Researchers from Miyagi University in Japan assessed how eating habits changed when people listened to four genres of music: classical; jazz; hip-hop; and heavy metal and rock. 

They found that classical music decreased a person’s penchant for “indulgent savoury” foods such as chips, burgers, beef sandwiches and meat pasta dishes, like lasagne. 

“Indulgent savoury foods were least preferred when listening to classical music, compared to the other genres,” said the researchers.

For the study, which was published in the journal Food Quality and Preference, nearly 800 participants listened to 20 different tracks from the four genres of music.

Classical soundtracks included Elgar’s Salut d’amour and Bach’s Air on the G String, while jazz songs included Dave Brubeck’s Take Five and Miles Davis’s Walkin’.

For the hip-hop genre, it was tunes such as California Love by 2Pac and Dr Dre, and Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

The rock-metal section, meanwhile, comprised tracks such as Iron Maiden’s The Trooper and Metallica’s Master of Puppets.

Restaurants can cater to musical tastes

After listening to each of the 20 songs the participants were asked to rate, on a scale, their intention to eat each of 16 food items, ranging from “not at all” to “very much”.

The participants also had to rate their emotional state while they were listening to the tracks. They felt calmer when listening to the classical music, and more excited when the other genres were playing.

Researchers said the findings could be used to help food vendors maximise sales by unconsciously targeting their customers with suitable music. 

“Restaurants and stores that mostly sell sweet foods (think ice-cream parlours) might want to choose classical music (eg. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by J.S. Bach),” the researchers wrote.

“For restaurants and stores that mostly sell healthy savoury foods (eg. vegetable sandwiches), playing classical or jazz seems better than the other genres. 

“It is also recommended that restaurants and stores that mostly sell indulgent savoury foods (eg. beef sandwiches) might want to play jazz, hip-hop, or rock/metal and avoid playing classical music. 

“Additionally, in the festivals or events that specific music genres are played (eg. rock festival, jazz festival, classical concert), event planners can design menu options accordingly. 

“Furthermore, it seems possible that sounds in food advertisements can be well-designed based on our findings.”


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