Food scientists working to diminish, mask bitter tastes in foods

June 24, 2014

Food scientists are working to block, mask and/or distract from bitter tastes in foods to make them more palatable to consumers, many of whom are genetically sensitive to bitter tastes, according to a new presentation at the 2014 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo® in New Orleans.

"Many factors go into why we eat what we do," said John Hayes, PhD, assistant professor of food science and director of the Sensory Evaluation Center at Pennsylvania State University, with taste consistently ranking as number one. There's also "a huge variability in how much bitterness people taste. If something is you like it less and you eat it less."

Many foods, such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus, kale, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, tea, soy and caffeine, have a bitter taste. People with a high sensitivity to bitterness eat 25 percent fewer vegetables, said Hayes.

The bitter perception is "highly complex," according to Hayes, with 25 known bitter receptor genes. "It's also not destiny. Learning can override innate aversions. You can learn to like things."

And yet as consumer preference grows for products with specific nutrients or ingredients, food scientists are working to mask or diminish bitter and other tastes, said Robert Sobel, PhD, vice president of research and innovation at FONA International.

"There's an increasing market opportunity to attenuate bitterness perception and improve palatability and preference among consumers," said Sobel.

In high-energy drinks, for example, are seeking a high level of caffeine, and yet caffeine can be very bitter. Food manufacturers often add a "high-intensity" sweetener to energy drinks, and because the brain has a preference for sweetness, it diminishes the perception of bitterness. The addition of "phantom aromas," such as vanilla, berry, citrus, bacon or even cheese, can distract the brain from acknowledging a bitter to taste.

Other additives can mask or "mitigate a bitter taste." Lactisole, for example, made from carboxylic acid salt derived from Columbian coffee, can negate sweet taste. An allosteric modulator can change a food or ingredient's protein structure reducing the salty, sweet or bitter signal to the brain.

When deciding which additives to use to diminish , "formulators must consider differences in regional diets for effective solutions," said Sobel.

Explore further: Food peptides activate bitter taste receptors

Related Stories

Food peptides activate bitter taste receptors

January 22, 2008

Researchers from the Monell Center and Tokyo University of Agriculture have used a novel molecular method to identify chemical compounds from common foods that activate human bitter taste receptors.

Taste perception of bitter foods depends on genetics

April 4, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- How we perceive the taste of bitter foods -- and whether we like or dislike them, at least initially -- depends on which versions of taste-receptor genes a person has, according to a researcher in Penn State's ...

Recommended for you

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

Findings illuminate animal evolution in protein function

July 27, 2015

Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond researchers recently teamed up to explore the inner workings of cells and shed light on the 400–600 million years of evolution between humans and early animals ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.