Entries in Taste (3)


Foodie Alert: How Palate Cleansers Work on ‘Fatty Mouth’

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- “Red wine with red meat,” or so the old adage goes. Now new findings may help us better understand how palate cleansers like wine or tea refresh our mouths between courses.

A study, published on Monday in Current Biology, enlisted 21 volunteers to rate the feelings in their mouth after repeatedly sipping either tea or water while eating salami.

When subjects ate fatty food, they experienced a “fatty mouth feel” -- a sensation that their mouths felt slippery or coated, said senior author of the study, Paul A.S. Breslin, a professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University and member of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

“If they are sipping tea while they eat this meat, then that tea helped bring the ‘fatty mouth feel’ back down again, more so when compared to sipping just water,” he said.

These findings show that sipping an astringent beverage can counteract the oral sensation of fatty foods during a meal.

Palate cleansers feel astringent or dry in our mouths because they contain compounds that break down the lubricating proteins in our saliva, Breslin said. This is what allows them to provide a sensation of cleanness in our mouths by removing after-tastes and fatty mouth-coating sensations.

“If you notice how we eat fatty foods in general, we tend to pair them with something astringent,” Breslin said. “They go together because they balance each other out."

“This is a principle in cuisines throughout the world.”

One nutrition expert not involved with the study agreed.

“The process of dining involves a back and forth interplay of astringency and fat,” said Dr. Jana Klauer, a New York City-based physician who specializes in nutrition, “The French have long known this.”

In a typical French meal, she explained, you consume an aperitif -- which is astringent -- then a creamy soup, then a main course with some fat balanced with an astringent wine, then a palate-cleansing sorbet, and lastly, a dessert containing fat.

So food-lovers around the globe may have another reason to rejoice.  Whether you consume a juicy steak with red wine, salad dressing containing oil and vinegar, or sushi with a side of ginger, these and other complementary pairings of fat and astringency may be good for our bodies, Breslin said.

“This natural tendency for seeking balance in our mouths might have benefits for maintaining a diversity of foods in our diet.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Weight and Taste Sensitivity Are Linked, New Study Says

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The secret to avoiding weight gain may be residing on the top of your tongue. According to a new German study, obese children have less sensitive taste buds than kids of normal weight, and that may drive them to eat more.

The investigators tested the taste sensitivity of 200 children between the ages of 6 and 18, half of whom were obese. By placing special taste strips on the children's tongues they were able to measure their response to each of the five taste sensations -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (savory) -- at four different levels of intensity.

Obese children had a much harder time than their slimmer peers identifying the different tastes, especially salty, bitter and umami. They also struggled to detect the difference between salty and sour, and between salty and umami.

Girls and older children who were thin had, in general, the most finely tuned taste buds. And, while both obese and normal-weight children correctly identified all the differing levels of sweetness, obese kids rated three out of the four intensity levels lower than kids of normal weight.

At this point scientists don't know whether a sluggish sense of taste leads to overeating or if excess weight somehow diminishes the taste buds' abilities. Robin Dando, a professor in the food and science department at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said he thinks it may be a little of each.

"It could be a cause and an effect at the same time," he said. "Obese people may taste differently, but also their taste ability is contributing to their obesity."

Dando, whose own research examines the physiology of taste receptors, said we are all born with distinct taste sensitivities and preferences that are influenced by age, sex and experience. Both taste and obesity may also be shaped by hormonal fluctuations. This "hormonal fingerprint," as Dando calls it, might be different for obese and lean people.

For example, the hormone leptin is associated with hunger, fat storage and the ability to taste sweet things. Obese people may be less sensitive to its daily cycles. Also, if the level of insulin circulating in the blood stream remains consistently elevated for long periods of time, as it does in many obese people, it could weaken the cells' receptors to the hormone, which in turn could mute taste sensitivity.

Dr. Stephen Cook, associate professor at the Golisano Children's Hospital, at the University of Rochester, said he thought obese kids might also become over-habituated to taste over time. "They may get so used to certain flavors, they need to consume them at an ever-increasing threshold to notice their taste," he said.

This isn't the first study to look at the connection between taste ability and weight. Previous research has suggested that people with a heightened sensitivity to the various taste sensations tend to eat less, possibly because they get more flavor in every bite, while people who overindulge simply may not taste food as keenly as others do. In 2010, for example, Australian researchers found those with higher sensitivity to the taste of fat tended to eat fewer fatty foods overall and had lower body mass indexes.

Russell Keats, the lead author of the Australian study and an associate professor at Deakin University in Victoria, said this latest study has some issues. "The number [of subjects] is small, taste strips are not a great method to indicate taste function, and identification of taste may be related to other cognitive issues rather than anything to do with taste function," he said.

Cook said it's possible the results might change if the same study looked at American children, who are used to eating more highly processed foods than their European counterparts. "Since they have different exposures, I'm not sure the results would be the same."

Still, Dando said the work is interesting. It's not yet known whether the taste buds can be retrained to do a better job but if they can, he thought it might possibly lead to some new weight loss therapies down the road. Instead of counting calories, perhaps dieters could concentrate on eating more mindfully and getting a bigger taste hit per bite.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pepsi Next: Half the Calories, All The Taste?

Filephoto/ Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With soda sales fizzling, Pepsi is hoping to lure back customers with a drink that may appeal to those who want the flavor of a regular soft drink, without the high calories.

At the end of March, Pepsi will launch what it is calling Pepsi Next. The new cola will have 60 calories, about half that of a regular Pepsi, but presumably more Pepsi flavor than Diet Pepsi.

“Pepsi is trying to basically come up with a good tasting mid-calorie cola which will keep the Pepsi consumers in the Pepsi franchise,” John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, told ABC News.

Sicher says this has been tried before. In 2001, both Coke and Pepsi introduced mid-calorie colas.

“Coke’s was C2, Pepsi’s was Pepsi Edge,” said Sicher. “They did not work then. Pepsi seems to believe that times are different now and consumers might want to try this kind of beverage.”

The beverages were taken off the market after five years because of low sales. Soft drink sales fell from 10 billion cases in 2005 to 9.4 billion in 2010, according to Beverage Digest.

Even as overall sales fell, diet soft drinks captured a bigger share of the soda market. The move by Pepsi, the nation’s number two cola company, drew a qualified thumbs-up from Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has criticized high-calorie soft drinks.

“It is certainly healthier that regular Pepsi,” said Jacobson, “but not as good as diet Pepsi or water or seltzer.”

Jacobson added, “It sounds like they’re trying everything they can to boost sales (but) for people who are concerned about calories, which presumably is the target of this product, there are many other alternatives. So will this newest beverage gamble pay off?”

Beverage Digest’s Sicher isn’t sure. “My mother taught me never to predict the future,” he said. “I respect Pepsi’s market research. I think time will tell, I think we will know in nine to 12 months whether it will be successful or not.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio