At Pontificia University Católica in Santiago, Chile, important work is being done. Sick of people repeatedly insisting that corn flakes are delicious when swimming in a bowl of tap water (I guess?), a team of researchers embarked on a remarkably thorough examination of the effects of different liquids--2% milk, skim milk, and water--on breakfast cereal (both corn flakes and quinoa flakes). This is a real study, and we at PopSci spent real money and real time to read it.
Here are the ten best quotes from this study, which appeared in Volume 76, Issue 3 of the Journal of Food Science.
1. From the abstract, the brief summary that appears before the full article: "Keywords: breakfast foods, microstructure, milk soaking, quinoa"
Read: This article will be crazy.
2. "Most consumption methods of breakfast cereal ﬂakes (BCF) involve mixing the ﬂakes with milk of varying fat contents. Liquid uptake by breakfast cereals in the bowl is a relevant factor for consumption and acceptability, as it inﬂuences the texture and integrity of ﬂakes. These changes could be expressed as a reduction in the force needed to disintegrate the ﬂake as the soaking proceeds, a change that may be ascribable to alterations of its microstructure."
Read: People put milk on cereal, because it tastes better.
3. "According to Pittia and Sacchetti (2008), intermolecular interactions in the ﬂake's matrix could be weakened by the plasticizer [water], leading to the solubilization of some components, and to a decrease in mechanical integrity."
Read: Water makes cereal soggy.
4. "The cell-wall material density of a ﬂake (ρS in g cm−3) was determined with a Helium picnometer (Accupyc 1330 series N◦ 2441, Micrometrics Instruments Inc., Norcross, Ga., U.S.A.) with a volume module of 12.03 cm3 and employing approximately 2.90 g of QF [quinoa flakes] and approximately 1.27 g of CF [corn flakes]. The density of the ﬂake (ρf in g cm−3) was determined through the relationship between the individual weight and its volume (cm3)."
5. "Each type of ﬂake was placed into a ceramic bowl and liquid nitrogen was poured on top to rapidly freeze the sample, thus minimizing adverse effects on the microstructure."
Read: Does Nathan Myhrvold know about nitrogen-frozen quinoa flakes?
6. "Cold temperature was chosen in light of the high frequency of cold breakfast cereal consumption (Ganji and Kafai 2004)."
Read: Here we cite a study that tells us that corn flakes are typically served cold.
7. "Maximum rupture force of cereals type A (cornstarch ﬂake), B (rice starch ﬂake), and C (wheat starch ﬂake) were measured in the proportion of 10 g of cereals for every 100 g of milk 2%."
Read: Hahaha "maximum rupture force."
8. "Data and models showed that the RF [sogginess level] for BFP [haha, "breakfast flake products"] was lower when the ﬂake was immersed in water than in milk. Sacchetti and others (2003) and Medina and others (2010) have suggested that during immersion in whole milk it is possible that a layer of lipids and casein micelles is deposited on the ﬂake's surface, which hinders liquid transfer into the interior, thus, retarding softening of the matrix."
Read: Now we're getting to it. Milk's fat content shields the cereal from absorbing too much liquid!
9. "Considering that texture is the sensory and functional manifestation of the structural, mechanical, and surface properties of foods detected through the senses of vision, hearing, touch, and kinesthetic (Szczesniak 2002), it is important to study the textural perception of BFP by understanding the dynamics of the product in the consumer's mouth as determined by their initial structure (Szczesniak 2002; Lenfant and others 2009)."
Read: People like their cereal when it's crispy.
10. "The cross-sections of CF revealed an internal porous structure composed of several rounded air cells of different dimensions as reported also by Gondek and Lewicki (2006). Some large air cells protruded almost into the surface and were separated from it by a thin layer while other smaller air cells were embedded within a thick and dense solid matrix. Air cells seemed to be distributed within this continuous matrix."
Read: Dude, have you ever looked closely at a corn flake? Like, really closely?
You can read the article's abstract, or purchase the full thing, here.
I'm so glad someone spent tons of money researching this. We needed to know!
If you are being sarcastic, I agree with you. I think this is a waste of tax payer money.
I eat my cereal with milk and sometimes add honey, but who cares right!
Science sees no further than what it can sense, i.e. facts.
Religion sees beyond the senses, i.e. faith.
Open your mind and see!
Yeah how dare those people use taxpayer money! Especially that guy from the University of Chile.
Which study are you gentlemen referring to?
"At Pontificia University Católica in Santiago, Chile"
The study wasn't done in the U.S., so how is it a waste of tax payer dollars? If you're referring to Popular Science spending money, well its in their budget, and they make their own money.
I'm reminded of what I was told in school before taking a test, "Read the directions"...read the article, not skim.
Chileans must really love corn flakes.
Yup! My bad, I read to briefly...... sigh....
Even if this was conducted at a US university, why would you assume it's taxpayer dollars? Furthermore, food product scientists and marketing departments are probably very interested in the results. Maybe they'll want to develop a corn flake that does taste good in water so they can market it to desert folk.
Where's the control group? I don't put anything on my cereal, and crunchiness is never an issue.
They got it wrong though, not everyone likes crunchy cereal. I for one am not a fan. I love it when it soaks up the milk and gets soggy. I don't like crunching from beginning to end of the bowl.
1 word: IgNobel. See you all at Sanders!
Unlike the author, I've never thought that cereals that stay crispy in milk are desirable.
Perhaps shouldn't get completly soggy, but a good cereal usually contains malt, sugar, and salt that need to dissolve into the milk for optimal flavor.
Cereals that stay overly crisp taste like cardboard. They are usually new brands from companies that apparently survey people about what they didn't like about cereal. People who don't like cereal complain that it gets soggy, so the food chemists come up with a product that meet that supposed need. And most of the time, people try it only a few times and go back to the old standards.
Then there are cereals like Grape Nuts that taste really good if you let them go completly soggy.
Science is science. Those of you thumbing your noses at this research are fools. Breakfast cereal is a 12 billion dollar industry in the US, 28 billion worldwide. From an economic perspective, this research probably has more short-term benefit than what's going on at CERN. It's all a question of perspective.
"No man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions."
They completely overlook the obvious correlation between lipids and sucrose - as fats and sugars compliment each other. (ie - fat carries flavor over the tounge and causes it to linger there)
If you want evidence of this, pour a cup of heavy cream over your cereal and enjoy the flavor ride - and the subsequent ride to the hospital (24+% milk fat).