Pungent tasting substance in ginger reduces bad breath

July 31, 2018, Technical University Munich
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The pungent compound 6-gingerol, a constituent of ginger, stimulates an enzyme in saliva that breaks down foul-smelling substances. It thus ensures fresh breath and a better aftertaste. Citric acid, on the other hand, increases the sodium ion content of saliva, making salty foods taste less salty. To find out more about food components, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Leibniz- Institute for Food Systems Biology investigated the effects of food components on the molecules dissolved in saliva.

Many contribute directly to the characteristic of and beverages by means of contributing their own particular taste, scent or spiciness. However, they also indirectly influence our sense of taste via other, still largely unknown biochemical mechanisms. A team led by Professor Thomas Hofmann from the Chair of Food Chemistry and Molecular Sensory Science has now investigated this phenomenon in greater detail.

6-Gingerol ensures fresh breath

As the results of this study show, the pungent principle of ginger, the so-called 6-gingerol, makes the level of the enzyme sulfhydryl oxidase 1 in increase 16-fold within a few seconds. The saliva and breath analyses carried out on human volunteers show that the enzyme breaks down malodorous sulfur-containing compounds. In this way, it is able to reduce the long-lasting aftertaste of many foods such as coffee. "As a result, our breath also smells better," explains Prof. Hofmann, who headed the study. The mechanism discovered could contribute to the future development of new oral hygiene products, says the head of the Leibniz- Institute for Food Systems Biology at the TUM.

Citric acid reduces our perception of saltiness

According to the study, citric acid influences our perception of taste through a completely different mechanism. As everyone knows from personal experience, sour foods such as lemon juice stimulate salivation. The amount of minerals dissolved in saliva also increases in proportion to the amount of saliva.

According to Prof. Hofmann, the sodium ion level in saliva rises rapidly by approximately a factor of eleven after stimulation with . This effect makes us less sensitive to table salt. The food chemist explains: "Table salt is nothing other than sodium chloride, and sodium ions play a key role in the taste of salt. If saliva already contains higher concentrations of sodium ions, samples tasted must have a significantly higher salt content in order to taste comparatively salty."

Hofmann believes that a great deal of research still needs to be done in order to understand the complex interaction between the molecules in food that create taste, the biochemical processes that take place in saliva and our sense of taste. Using a systems biology approach, Hofmann aims to develop a new scientific basis for the production of food with component and functional profiles that satisfy the health and sensory needs of consumers. To this end, he and his team are combining biomolecular research methods with high-performance analytical technologies and bioinformatics methods.

Explore further: Saliva proteins could explain why some people overuse salt

More information: Matthias Bader et al, Chemosensate-Induced Modulation of the Salivary Proteome and Metabolome Alters the Sensory Perception of Salt Taste and Odor-Active Thiols, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.8b02772

Related Stories

Saliva proteins could explain why some people overuse salt

November 1, 2017

Many Americans consume too much salt. Now in a study appearing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists report that people who can easily taste salt have differing amounts of certain proteins in their ...

The chemistry of salt in the kitchen

May 6, 2016

When we say "salt", we usually mean the stuff we sprinkle on our chips, which is sodium chloride (NaCl). But, technically speaking, this is just one example of a salt.

A new alternative to sodium—Fish sauce

January 18, 2016

Cooks, chefs and food manufacturers are looking for natural ways to reduce sodium in recipes in nearly every culture. A big challenge to doing that is taste. Consumers typically describe reduced-sodium foods as lacking in ...

Recommended for you

Producing defectless metal crystals of unprecedented size

October 19, 2018

A research group at the Center for Multidimensional Carbon Materials, within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), has published an article in Science describing a new method to convert inexpensive polycrystalline metal ...

Nanodiamonds as photocatalysts

October 19, 2018

Climate change is in full swing and will continue unabated as long as CO2 emissions continue. One possible solution is to return CO2 to the energy cycle: CO2 could be processed with water into methanol, a fuel that can be ...

Shining light on the separation of rare earth metals

October 18, 2018

Inside smartphones and computer displays are metals known as the rare earths. Mining and purifying these metals involves waste- and energy-intense processes. Better processes are needed. Previous work has shown that specific ...

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.