Alternating taste intensities could help cut sugar and salt levels: NIZO

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Sugar and salt reductions possible with development of alternating taste intensity: NIZO researchers
Sugar and salt reductions possible with development of alternating taste intensity: NIZO researchers

Related tags Sugar Sense Food

The development of foods that contain alternating levels of taste intensity in the mouth could lead to reductions in sugar and salt levels, while retaining the same perception as with the original foodstuffs, say researchers from Dutch research group NIZO.

The study – published in Chemical Senses​ – investigated the effect of concentration changes of the sweetener sucrose on the perceived sweetness intensity. They found that the perceived sweetness intensity increased with the size of the contrast in sucrose concentration.

The researchers, led by Dr Kerstin Burseg of NIZO, reported that stimulation with continuously ‘pulsating’ taste concentrations gives a higher taste perception compared to a continuous stimulation with the same average taste concentration. 

Burseg and her colleagues added that with the food industry continuously searching for ways to reduce sugar or salt levels while retaining taste and texture perception, the new findings could open up new avenues to a solution.

“These developments enable food industry to further reduce sugar and salt contents without the use of tastant replacers,”​ said the NIZO researchers.

Research highlights

The research team exposed the tongues of subjects to a continuous flow of water containing alternating (or pulsating) levels of tastants – at defined concentrations – using a research tool known as the ‘Gustometer’.

When stimulated with these alternating taste concentrations, the volunteers reported higher average taste intensities than when they received a continuous stimulation with the same level of tastant.

Burseg and her colleagues reported that the perceived sweetness intensity was found to increase as the size of contrast in sucrose levels got larger.

“The pulsatile stimulus with the highest concentration difference (average sucrose concentration: 60 grams per litre) was rated as the sweetest in spite of the fact that the gross sucrose concentrations were identical over stimuli,”​ said the researchers.

Furthermore, Burseg and her team noted that the ‘pulsating’ stimulus at 60 grams per litre was rated equally sweet by the participants as a continuous reference level of 70 grams per litre.

“We propose that the magnitude of pulsation-induced taste enhancement is determined by the absolute stimulus concentration contrast,”​ explained the researchers, who noted that in subsequent studies, the tastant distributions in foods were optimized to achieve similar pulsation in the mouth.

Using this technique, the researchers achieved substantial reductions salt and sugar levels for a variety of foods – without affecting the perceived taste intensities. 

Source: Chemical Senses 

Volume 37, Volume 1, Pages 27-33, doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjr062

“Sweetness Intensity Enhancement by Pulsatile Stimulation: Effects of Magnitude and Quality of Taste Contrast”
Authors: K.M.M. Burseg, H. L. Lieu, J.H.F. Bult




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