Most people know that eating food with too much fat, sugar and salt is bad for them. The problem is that these harmful ingredients is what makes food taste so good. A research team from the Centre des Sciences du Goût de l’Alimentation in France are conducting a study to determine if aromas can make food with reduced fat, sugar and salt more appealing to consumers.
Thierry Thomas-Danguin, Ph.D. and a lead of the study, believes they are getting close to a method that will help consumers enjoy the sweet taste of cake, cookies and other gastronomic delights without getting the sugar rush. In initial tests using a new device developed in-house, the team has managed to isolate a number of natural aromatic molecules while screening for odor compounds in real foods. The molecules would make it possible to trick people’s brains into believing that various foods contain more fat, sugar or salt than what they actually do.
If you have ever tried pinching your nose closed while you eat, you’ll know that smell plays a vital role in how we taste food. With your nose closed, chances are you won’t taste anything. Scientists have used this fact for a long time to improve the flavor of food and beverages by adding botanical extracts, chemical aromatics and essential oils.
People that buy a product made with 30 percent less salt often don’t like it because it isn’t very tasty. A normal reaction in this case is to reach for the table salt and put some onto the product. This defeats the whole objective of reducing salt in the product in the first place. Thomas-Danguin explains that the team’s goal is to optimize the reformulation process. This will assist the food industry to produce more healthy products, hoping that consumers will choose to eat these regularly because they like them as they are.
This is not the first time Thomas-Danguin does research into aromas. Previously, he conducted experiments to determine if the brain could be fooled into thinking that there is more fat, sugar or salt in food if aromas are added in the right amount. Participants in the experiment were required to taste flan, a type of custard. The layers of the flan were varied by adding more or less amounts of ham aroma and salt to each layer. The researchers found that although the ham aroma contained no salt, it increased the perception of saltiness of the flan. Some participants even thought a variation of the custard made with ham aroma and salt tasted the same as a flan made in the traditional way with 40 percent more salt in it.
In the most recent study, the researchers wanted to find a new way to separate aroma molecules related to sweet tastes. They therefore created an in-house device called a Gas Chromatograph-Olfactometry Associated Taste (GC-OAT), the first of its kind. The new device was used in conjunction with an olfactoscan that delivers a continuous stream of aromas to a person’s nose through a tube.
The test subjects had to smell real fruit juice through the olfactoscan. The researchers used the GC-OAT to isolate molecules from the juice at the same time. They then added the molecules into the olfactoscan tube one at a time. As the partakers smelled each of the mixtures, they were asked if the molecules added to the sweetness of the fruit juice. Thomas-Danguin believes the initial results suggest that the new technique may eventually help food manufacturers to formulate healthy foods better, without having to sacrifice the taste or aroma of the original products.
The researchers presented their work at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.