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Taste is everything

If only there was a way we could savour the sweet taste of cake or cookies without the sugar rush? Well now there is, according to scientists in France, who have developed a new device that could help improve the taste of foods low in fat, sugar and salt.

In preliminary tests using the device that allows them to screen for odour compounds in food, Thomas-Danguin and his team at the Centre des Sciences du Goût de l’Alimentation isolated several natural aromatic molecules that could be used to trick the brain into believing sweet snacks contain more fat, sugar or salt than they actually do.

“Most consumers know that they should be eating healthier foods made with reduced amounts of fat, sugar and salt,” explains Thierry Thomas-Danguin, Ph.D. “But this is problematic because these are the very ingredients that make many of the foods we like taste so delicious.

“Based on our lab work, we’ve come to believe that aromas can help compensate for the reduction of fat, sugar and salt in healthier foods and make them more appealing to consumers.”

In earlier work, Thomas-Danguin set out to prove that if the right aroma is added in the right amount in the right places in the right food, the brain can be fooled into thinking there is more fat, sugar or salt in it. Study participants were asked to taste flan, a type of custard, made in layers containing varying amounts of ham aroma and salt. The researchers found the ham aroma, even though it contained no salt, increased the perception of saltiness of the flan. Some participants thought one variation of the custard made with ham aroma and salt distributed unevenly in layers throughout it tasted the same as a flan made in the traditional way with 40% more salt.

And in their latest study, which is being presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, Thomas-Danguin and his team at the Centre des Sciences du Goût de l’Alimentation in France, sought to find a new way to isolate aroma molecules associated with sweet tastes. They created what they claim is a first-of-its-kind device, a Gas Chromatograph-Olfactometry Associated Taste (GC-OAT), and used it in conjunction with an olfactoscan, which delivers a continuous stream of aromas through a tube to a subject’s nose.

Participants were asked to smell real fruit juice aroma through the olfactoscan, while the researchers used the GC-OAT to isolate molecules from the juice. They then added the molecules one at a time into the olfactoscan tube.

As the participants smelled each of the mixtures, they were asked if the molecule contributed to their perceived sweetness of the fruit juice. Thomas-Danguin says the preliminary results suggest this new technique could eventually help food manufacturers better formulate healthier foods without sacrificing taste, aroma or texture of the original products.

Anything to help some of those healthier products taste sweeter is certainly welcomed by this confectionery lover.

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