Your consistently re-heated and generally bland airline meal is not something you look forward to eating on any flight, but according to an intriguing new book, meals consumed at high-altitude are often teeming with far more calories than food served on the ground.
In Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating, University of Oxford Professor Charles Spence lays bare another dimension of oft-stigmatized plane fare, explaining to The Telegraph that a combination of factors make it terribly unhealthy: “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.”
Spence's words seem to bolster the findings of other experts who've probed the issue of awful in-flight meals. As John Hansman, the director of the International Center for Air Transportation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explained last November: "It’s actually very hard to cook at those altitudes...they generally are just doing reheating.”
While increased sugar and salt compensates for the lack of taste, Spence advances another grim finding: Boredom makes you hungry. "With nothing else to do," he says, "food becomes an appealing distraction. And when it is being offered for free it will be even harder to resist.” The consequences of mindless snacking while watching TV have been pretty well-documented.
On the positive side, airplane food is rarely offered on domestic flights in the United States, so the only time you're likely to be presented with the option of an airline meal is on an overseas flight. Suffice it to say that you can heed the warnings from Spence, and perhaps take the advice of globe-trotting chefs who abhor the stuff.