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Nutrient sensing: What we can learn from different tastes about the nutrient contents in today’s foods?

19 / 10 / 18

Finding:

Taste is a good indicator of nutrient content, except in ultra-processed foods.

Summary:

This French study investigated the correlation between taste intensity and nutrient content (known as nutrient sensing), to evaluate the impact of different competing taste on nutrient sensing, and whether nutrient content could be inferred from a combination of tastes (and the effect of food processing). The Food Taste Database and French Food Composition data were used to create a list of 365 foods with combined data, of which 31% were processed foods and 52% were ultra-processed foods. Results confirmed existing direct dose-response taste-nutrient relationships found previously:

  • Sweet taste is correlated with mono- & disaccharides, & carbohydrates
  • Salty taste is correlated with sodium
  • Sour taste is correlated with organic acids
  • Fat taste is correlated with lipids

In addition, a correlation between umami taste and protein was found. No correlation was found between bitter taste and nutrient contents.

When the impact of competing tastes was analysed, 11% of variability in sweet taste intensity could be explained by the variability in the other tastes. Fat taste added to sweet taste intensity, while bitterness and saltiness had a suppressive effect.

The contents of 24 nutrients out of 51 could be partially predicted by taste perception. This study shows the probability of finding nutrients was theoretically higher in fat, salty and sweet foods. For ultra-processed foods, nutrient content tended to be lower than that predicted by taste. In a commentary on this article, the author suggested this may have implications on the ability to anticipate satiation and promote overeating but RCTs are needed to confirm this.

Citation:

Martin C, Issanchou S. Nutrient sensing: What we can learn from different tastes about the nutrient contents in today’s foods? J Food Qual Jan 2019 (epub ahead of print