Coloured potato chips act as a visual cue to curb overeating, say researchers at Cornell University.
As part of an experiment carried out on two groups of college students (98 students total) while they were watching video clips in class, researchers from Cornell's Food and Brand Lab served tubes potato chips, some of which contained chips dyed red.
Researchers found that the red chips served as subconscious "stop signs" that curtailed the amount of food consumed.
In the first study, the red chips were interspersed at intervals designating one suggested serving size (seven chips) or two serving sizes (14 chips); in the second study, this was changed to five and 10 chips.
Unaware of why some of the chips were red, the students who were served those tubes ate 50 percent less than their peers.
"People generally eat what is put in front of them if it is palatable," said Cornell Food and Brand Lab director Brian Wansink.
"An increasing amount of research suggests that some people use visual indications such as a clean plate or bottom of a bowl to tell them when to stop eating," he added.
Wansink said further studies are needed among larger, more diverse groups to determine in what context segmentation cues work, exactly why they work and whether people will compensate for the reduction in food intake by eating more later.