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Special taste ‘umami’ could be beneficial for health in the elderly, study

Posted:  Friday, January 30, 2015

Among the human senses, the sense of taste is the least explored and the least studied. The subject of taste and its effects on health is an unchartered territory literally. In order to understand this sensory quality better, a new Japanese review collated information from different science disciplines to reveal interesting results.

It was found that the taste ‘umami’ generated by monosodium glutamate (MSG) could be beneficial in the elderly. In addition, kokumi substances found in garlic, onions and scallops could modify flavour and improve the taste of low-fat foods. These results were published in the journal Flavour.

The ‘umami’ taste was researched in a small group of 44 elderly patients and it was found that some elderly patients suffer a loss of umami taste sensation. All the patients complained of loss of appetite and weight loss resulting in overall poor health. The researchers found that umami taste receptors were also present in the gut and were involved in modulating nutrient sensation and digestion, processes essential for maintaining a healthy life.

Research suggests that various age-related disorders and side effects of medications could reduce taste sensations and salivation in the elderly. The researchers noted that improving salivation bettered their taste sensations and could help those with reduced umami sensitivity.

In a different study among 29 people, addition of kokumi substances in reduced fat peanut butter enhanced its palatability by significantly enhancing thick flavour, aftertaste, and oiliness. Although they possess no taste, kokumi substances enhance basic tastes when combined with other flavours.

Taste is a crucial factor governing the palatability of foods. Although further large scale research is warranted, this knowledge can be successfully used to modify healthier foods to tastier foods.

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