Cyclodextrins may reduce bitter ginseng flavours: Study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Coffee, Taste, Drink, Journal of food science

The addition of cyclodextrins to ginseng-containing beverages could reduce the bitter flavours associated with the functional ingredient, according to new research.

Cyclodextrins may form inclusion complexes with ginseng, thereby reducing the bitterness of the ingredient by half, according to new findings published in the Journal of Food Science.

Scientists led by Dr Soo-Yeun Lee from the University of Illinois stated that incorporating such levels of cyclodextrins energy drink solutions containing ginseng “will aid in the development of functional beverages that are more acceptable to a wider range of consumers.”

“This research will be useful in selecting the minimum amount of cyclodextrins necessary to produce an acceptable energy drink,”​ they added.

Poor palatability

Ginseng is a root used in supplements and energy drinks, and is typically taken to enhance stamina and reduce feelings of fatigue and physical stress but is also suggested to have other health benefits.

Although ginseng is known for its benefits, it is also notorious for its bitter taste, which can reduce the palatability of ginseng-containing products. A descriptive sensory analysis of energy drink formulations previously found​ that panellists rate ‘bitter attribute’ intensity highly when 0.011 g of ginseng is present in 100 ml of drink.

“Incorporating ginseng into beverages without the bitterness, while still maintaining its health benefits, is necessary for developing an acceptable product,”​ stated the researchers.

Adding congruent flavours to ginseng drinks has already been used to reduce unpleasant tastes, whilst the bitter taste can also be masked by incorporating flavours such as coffee, or citrus.

Cyclodextrins have been shown to reduce bitterness in foods, like coffee, soy, citrus fruits, and in pharmaceutical drugs, however the researchers report that currently there is no published research on reducing the bitterness of ginseng in functional beverages with cyclodextrins.

The new study attempted to identify effective techniques for minimizing ginseng bitterness in water and energy drink model solutions.

Reduced bitterness

The researchers performed a series of pilot studies investigating bitterness reducing techniques, including the addition of congruent flavours, the use of bitterness blocking agents, enzymatic modifications, ingredient interaction, and complexation.

Based on the results of the pilot studies, gamma- cyclodextrin and beta-cyclodextrin complexation agents “were identified as having the most potential.”

The effectiveness of gamma and beta cyclodextrins, both individually and in various combinations were then tested at different concentrations in water and energy drinks models.

The most effective concentrations were observed to be 0.09 grams of gamma- cyclodextrin and one gram of beta- cyclodextrin, both of which reduced the bitterness intensity of ginseng the in the solutions by half.

What next?

The authors stated that further research should include conducting consumer acceptance tests on ginseng model energy drinks that incorporate different types and levels of cyclodextrins – whilst other potential studies may investigate the chemistry behind the complexations occurring between the bitter compounds in ginseng and cyclodexterins.

“Research focusing on the chemical interactions between cyclodexterins and bitter compounds can then be compared and correlated to sensory studies on bitterness perception,”​ they added.

Source: Journal of Food Science
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01749.x
“Sensory Properties of Ginseng Solutions Modified by Masking Agents”
Authors: L.C. Tamamoto, S.J. Schmidt, S.Y. Lee

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