Music…Appetite’s Dinner Guest

Music…Appetite’s Dinner Guest

Many factors of aging (physiological, socioeconomic, and psychological) contribute to a decreased food intake once we pass into our 80s.  These might be as simple as decreased energy to prepare meals.  Losing weight at this age means losing precious muscle.  Muscle is associated with increased insulin sensitivity, better balance, and increased resistance to immunity—to name just a few of its advantages!

Factors that Increase Risk of Poor Intake by Older Adults

  • Cognitive decline
  • Dental Health: Dentures, Loose teeth, Few teeth
  • Dysphagia
  • Loss of taste and smell

Nutritional interventions to increase calories consumed vary widely.  However, for the older adults who eat less because of cognitive rather than functional or physiological decline, recommendations may be harder to implement (given that their independence is impaired).  Music is a passive, non-invasive approach to improving intake.

What we know

Taste is multisensory; our experience of food is affected by all of our senses.1 It has been shown that music preference and tempo both have an impact on meal duration with music preference being the more significant predictor.3 In addition, the higher the tempo of the music, the more bites per minute!2 A study with 12 nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s saw about 20% more calories eaten and an increase in the time spent eating when familiar background music was played (as compared to none).4 The additional calories were primarily from carbohydrates.4

Bring Music to the Table

More research is needed on the effect of music on food consumption to further explore how location, age, and type of music may take part in the results seen.  It seems that background music may increase the duration of a meal.  Longer time ‘at the table’ often means that more calories are eaten through beverages and carbohydrates.

It is important older adults choose foods rich with nutrients.  In the presence of music, the ‘extra’ calories available should be chosen wisely.  Have carrots and hummus or a whole-grain bread as an appetizer or side, for example, rather than refined bread.  Keep milk at the table in place of soft drinks or other high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.  If an older adult chooses to eat a little more, they may be more likely to snack on healthy alternatives.

There are many ways to improve the voracity of the aging appetite.  Music during meals may just be the easiest!  For more information, please enjoy this handout: NUTR615_Blog handout

Guest Blogger:  Claire Newlon



  1. Massimiliano, Z., & Spence, C. (2008). Assessing the role of sound in the perception of food and drink . Chemosensory Perception, 3(1), 57-67. Retrieved from
  2. Stroebele, N., & de Castro, J. (2006). Listening to music while eating is related to increases in people’s food intake and meal duration. Appetite, 47(3), 285-289. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2006.04.001.
  3. Caldwell, C. and Hibbert, S. A. (2002), The influence of music tempo and musical preference on restaurant patrons’ behavior. Psychology and Marketing, 19: 895–917. doi: 10.1002/mar.10043
  4. Thomas, D., & Smith, M. (2009). The Effect of Music on Caloric Consumption Among Nursing Home Residents with Dementia of the Alzheimer’s Type. Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 33(1), 1-16. doi:10.1080/01924780902718566.
  5. Artist unknown for image 1 (,r:17,s:0&biw=1259&bih=615)
  6. Artist unknown for image 2  (

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