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Book Reveals How Cabin Conditions Result in an Increase in Calorie Consumption

In-flight ambiance, boredom and even entertainment all contribute to a spike in calories consumed, says academic.

The health-conscious should look away now; an academic has worked out the number of calories consumed in the cabin and the sum is not immodest. The findings have been revealed in Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating, a book by Professor Charles Spence, a fellow at the University of Oxford’s Somerville College.

While not usually praised for its overall taste or quality ingredients, the publication, Traveller explains, provides an in-depth explanation as to why calorie consumption tends to peak at cruising altitude. This phenomenon, Spence indicates, is due to an unholy combination of cabin conditions, sheer boredom and yes, even in-fight entertainment.

“The lower cabin air pressure, dry cabin air and the loud engine noise all contribute to our inability to taste and smell food and drink. “[Therefore] the food we consume needs 20-30 percent more sugar and salt to make it taste like it would on the ground,” he explained.

“Next, there is the boredom. With nothing else to do, food becomes an appealing distraction. And when it is being offered for free it will be even harder to resist,” Spence said.

He also added, “Another really big problem is the movie or television you watch. It is not uncommon to find people eating as much a third more food with the TV on.”

The book’s findings also reveal that UK air passengers consume essentially twice their recommended daily calorie allowance while in the skies. Spence estimates that that tallies up to approximately 3,400 calories.

Speaking of the findings, he said, “More often than not […] the airlines have opted to load the food they serve with even more sugar and salt, to enhance the flavor. No surprise, therefore, that the food served these days isn’t the healthiest.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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