SpirE-Journal 2015 Q1

Side Click: Recognizing the taste of carbohydrates

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Side Click: Recognizing the taste of carbohydrates

The tongue is capable of discerning the taste of carbohydrates. Diet foods – containing artificial sweeteners but few carbs – are thus unsatisfying to many consumers. How can food manufacturers cash in on the ‘carbohydrate taste’?

Tasting carbs

Simple and complex carbohydrates, including sugars, are the body’s main source of energy. People tend to treat carbs as more of a necessity and “filler food” than a tasty treat. But a study conducted in 2014 suggests that the tongue senses the taste of carbohydrates in addition to the five conventional tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savoury).

According to the study, when an individual consumes carbohydrates directly, there is a 30% increase in activity in the brain areas controlling movement and vision. Carbohydrates influence areas of the brain which are not affected by artificial sweeteners. The brain’s pleasure centers only light up when the tongue senses real carbohydrates instead of artificial sweeteners.

Good news for food manufacturers?

Industry experts opine that food manufacturers need to understand the ‘carbohydrate sense’ and develop artificial sweeteners that are as rewarding as real carbs.

One option is to have real carbohydrates included in small amounts within sweeteners, instead of substituting real carbs with artificial sweeteners. This would give the consumer a hit of carbohydrate flavour, leaving a craving sensation as the taste fades.

At the same time, food manufacturers should focus on the health aspect. Carbohydrates can be fit into a healthy diet by using naturally occurring carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, milk, nuts, grains, grains, seeds and legumes. This way, consumers can have their cake and eat it too.

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