March 31, 2011

Bitterness Blocker Aims To Make Food More Appealing

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- We've all been guilty of passing up wholesome foods for better tasting, less nutritious ones at some point. With millions of adults and children avoiding those healthful foods because of the bitter taste, and gagging or vomiting when forced to take bitter liquid medicines, scientists reported a leap toward a high-tech version of Mary Poppins' solution.  It's not a spoonful of sugar to help the stuff go down . . . but a new and improved "bitterness blocker."

"A lot of people are very sensitive to bitter taste in medicines, calorie-free sweeteners, and foods," which Ioana Ungureanu, who described the new substance at the ACS meeting, one of the largest scientific conferences of 2011, was quoted as saying.

"We'd like to be able to make their diets more enjoyable by masking the off-putting flavors of bitterness.  Blocking these flavors we call off-notes could help consumers eat healthier and more varied diets.  It could encourage them to switch to non-calorie soft drinks and help children and seniors swallow bitter-tasting medications."

Ungureanu noted that green, leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli are outstanding sources of calcium and other nutrients imperative for good health.  On the contrary, calcium, magnesium, zinc and other key minerals and vitamins in nourishing foods alas have a taste that people find unpleasantly bitter.  Though it is improbable that the bitterness of these fresh vegetables will be masked any time soon, there are countless other food and beverage products that are becoming much more palatable.

Taste cells with particular receptors blanket the tongue. Scientists have recognized 27 receptors for different shades of bitterness, which along with salty, sweet, sour and savory (or umami), make up the human taste palate.  The new-fangled bitterness blocker, known merely at this point as GIV3616, works by blocking some of the bitterness receptors.

Givaudan scientists are responsible for revealing the first commercially viable substance able of blocking bitter taste in humans "“ GIV3727, which inhibited taste receptors involved in people's ability to detect the harsh aftertaste from artificial sweeteners, including saccharin and sucralose.  Nevertheless, Givaudan scientists realized right away that it could be implemented as the model for developing blockers for additional taste receptors, including substances that might make liquid medicines or bitter foods more pleasant.

The novel compound, Ungureanu went on to say, is far more effective and can dissolve much quicker in foods and beverages.  "It works at levels on the order of parts per million and blocks flavors using 10 times less material than what was needed previously."

"Sensitivity to many foods is partly due to genetics," Ungureanu, a research scientist with Givaudan Flavors Corporation in Cincinnati, Ohio, added.  "Recent studies have estimated that a large portion of the population "” almost 25 percent, or 75 million people "” are known as supertasters who have heightened sensitivity to bitter foods.  Our compound could one day make supertasters' coffee more smooth or their veggies more appetizing."

The discovery of compounds such as GIV3727 and GIV3616 are part of a continuing revolution in research on flavors and taste.  In the past, the food and drug industry relied on salt, fat, and sugar to hide bitterness and other unpleasant flavors; nevertheless, concerns regarding the health effects of those three ingredients have shifted the focus.  Rather than hiding unpleasant tastes, chemists, molecular biologists and other scientists are developing ways to change how the tongue senses tastes.

Givaudan Flavours, a trusted partner to the world's leading food and beverage companies, is ultimately combining its global expertise in sensory understanding and analysis and consumer-led innovation in support of exclusive product applications in addition to innovative market opportunities.  From concept to store shelves and quick serve restaurants, Givaudan works with food and beverage manufacturers to develop flavors and tastes for market leading products across five continents.

SOURCE: The 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), March 29, 2011