NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS Connecticut) — Looking to make the most of your meal? New research suggests breathing slowly and evenly while eating may enhance the taste of food.

Tasting food occurs when food moves from the back of the mouth to the nasal cavity, but researchers at Penn State University and Yale University pondered why airflow doesn’t carry them into the lungs instead.

Engineers found that the shape of the airway to transfer food actually could allow humans to enjoy the smell and taste more thoroughly.

“During quiet breathing, there is no valve that can control the direction of volatile transport,” Rui Ni, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State University, said in a press release. “However, something must be controlling the movement of these particles and keeping them out of the lungs.”

Researchers used data from CT scans to build a 3-D model from the human airway to the nostrils to the trachea. They then tested airflow into and out of the airway.

The findings indicate that air inhaled through the nose forms an air curtain, preventing volatile particles from escaping the lungs. When the air is exhaled, food volatiles are moved into the nasal cavity where they can be sensed by olfactory cells.

“Smooth, relatively slow breathing maximizes delivery of the particles to the nose,” says Ni. “Food smells and tastes better if you take your time.”

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