Published on 21st June 2019


How we taste food is affected by whether we are sitting down or standing up, according to research published in the Journal of Consumer Research.1

Researchers compared how people rated the taste of food when standing or sitting, finding that study participants who ate whilst standing rated the taste of pleasant-tasting foods as less favourable, compared with participants who ate whilst sitting. Standing up even for a few minutes induces greater physical stress on the body, which in turn reduces sensory sensitivity. Yet the findings were reversed for unpleasant-tasting foods, with standing participants rating their flavour more highly. 

As written in ScienceDaily,2 “The force of gravity pushes blood to the lower parts of the body, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood back up to the top of the body, accelerating heart rate. This activates the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and leads to increased concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol. This chain reaction reduces sensory sensitivity, which impacts food and beverage taste evaluation, food temperature perception and overall consumption volume.”

For the study, 350 participants were asked to rate the tastiness of a pita chip; those who were standing rated it as less favourable than those who were sitting in a padded chair. The same findings were observed with bite-sized brownies. However, the results were reversed when the brownie recipe was altered to make it taste unpleasant by adding too much salt, with participants rating them as relatively more favourable than those who were sitting. 

Lead author Dipayan Biswas, PhD, professor of marketing at the University of South Florida, USA, said: "This finding suggests that parents might be able to make unpleasant-tasting, healthy foods seem more palatable to reluctant children by having them eat standing up (vs. sitting down). In a similar vein, it might be beneficial to maintain a standing posture when consuming pharmaceutical products that have unpleasant tastes." 

To expand the study, participants were then asked to try fruit snacks while carrying a shopping bag – thereby inducing more physical stress and mimicking what happens when sampling products at a supermarket, for example. In this case, both sitting and standing participants reported that food tasted even worse with the additional weight.