Research: Specific flavor combination suppresses hunger

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"Hungry!" (Affamé!) (photo: Frédérique Voisin-Demery / Flickr)"Hungry!" (Affamé!) (photo: Frédérique Voisin-Demery / Flickr)

Scientists at the Maastricht University Medical Center published new research that demonstrates a combination of flavors including sweet, bitter and umami actually makes people want to eat less. The small-scale experiment, conducted with the Top Institute of Food and Nutrition in Wageningen, included 15 healthy volunteers each receiving five different treatments where the combinations of flavors were infused directly into the duodenim.

The tests took place 2.5 hours after breakfast, with treatments including the bitter-tasting quinine, sweet tasting rebaudioside A, umami flavor from monosodium glutamate, a combination of the three, or a placebo of pure tap water. Infusions took place over an hour while subjects were allowed to eat all they wanted.

Participants receiving the combination infusion ate an average of 422 kilocalories, versus the placebo where they ate 486 kcal. The three flavors trigger the production of a satiety hormone which regulates energy balance by inhibiting hunger, the scientists said. The infusions themselves hardly contain any calories.

The lesser known taste umami is commonly described best by the term “earthy” and occurs naturally in seaweed, mushrooms and tomatoes. For years, research has suggested that umami reduced feelings of hunger. However, only the flavor combination actually reduces one's food intake, the scientists noted in their research, which also references a hypothesis that taste receptors exist in the gastrointestinal tract.

Lead researcher Mark van Avesaat speculated that capsules filled with these three basic flavors could affect food intake and assist in weight loss, but still more research is needed to make this a viable reality.

Van Avesaat and co-authors Freddy Troost, Ad Masclee and J. Peters all work together in the Gastroenterology-Hepatology unit at the medical center. Another two co-authors, Dina Ripken, of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research and Henk Hendriks are also included. Four of the five authors, except Peters, are affiliated with the Top Institute of Food and Nutrition.

Their research was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.