12 January - 20 June 2016

Have scientists discovered a seventh taste linked to carbohydrate-rich foods?

Scientists are reporting in The Journal of Nutrition, that they may have discovered a seventh “taste” linked to carbohydrate-rich foods. The Deakin scientists indicate that people who are sensitive to this taste may be at risk of craving carbohydrate foods and be more at risk of gaining excess weight.

Scientists are reporting in The Journal of Nutrition, that they may have discovered a seventh "taste" linked to carbohydrate-rich foods.  The Deakin scientists indicate that people who are sensitive to this taste may be at risk of craving carbohydrate foods and be more at risk of gaining excess weight.

Low et al. aimed to investigate the association of carbohydrate taste sensitivity, anthropometry and dietary intake among adults, focusing on maltodextrin and oligofructose, two common types of carbohydrates found in foods such as pasta and bread.  The team recruited 34 participants, 16 men and 18 women, who were subsequently trained to rate taste intensity.  The study involved 15 laboratory-based sessions.  At the first session, height, weight, waist circumference and demographic information were collected.  The participants also completed a 4 day food diary which was to be completed within a month of the start of the study.  Low et al measured detection thresholds for the complex carbohydrates maltodextrin and oligofructose, at a concentration range of 0.4-200 g/L.  The participants were provided with three samples, two containing water and a third a complex carbohydrate.  The participants were instructed to identify which sample was the odd one out.  This test was performed at different concentrations.  The team also investigated suprathreshold intensity perceptions. For this test, the participants were provided with four concentrations of complex carbohydrates solution ranging from week to strong and a control.

Using statistical analysis Low et al. investigated the link between waist circumference, oral sensitivity and starch intake.  They report "measurements of oral sensitivity to complex carbohydrates were significantly correlated with waist circumference and dietary energy and starch intakes."  When the team grouped the participants into tertiles in relations to their oral complex carbohydrate sensitivity, they report that participants who were more sensitive to maltodextrin had a larger waist circumference than less sensitive participants, and those who had higher intensity ratings for both complex carbohydrates had "larger WC than those who experience low intensity". The authors report that the results were similar when the participants were split into waist circumference risk groups. 

Low et al also investigated the relationship between measure of oral complex carbohydrate sensitivity and the percentage of energy from fat, protein, carbohydrate, sugar, starch or fibre, and found no "robust associations". Although they suggest a significant link between mean total energy intake and maltodextrin sensitivity, with those who experiencing high sensitivity to maltodextrin consuming more energy per day than those who experience low intensity.  They report “being more sensitive or experiencing high intensity was associated with greater energy (7968-8954 kJ/d) and starch (29.1-29.8% of energy) intakes and a greater WC (88.2 -91.4cm) than was being less sensitive or experience low intensity (6693-7747 kJ/d, 20,9-22.2% of energy and 75.5-80.5 cm respectively.)

In discussion Low et al note that maltodextrin is commonly used in low amounts as a food additive and suggest that those who are more sensitive or experience high intensity may consume more of these products as they find these more palatable, although they note that they did not measure participants’ liking of foods.  The study reiterates its finding and concludes by stating "that individuals who are more sensitive to the ‘taste’ of carbohydrate also have some form of subconscious accelerator that increases carbohydrate or starch food consumption."

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