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Tongue Tricks

By: Rebecca Schwartz
Ever close your eyes and try to forget how awful swallowing a teaspoonful of medicine would be? Or perhaps you don’t eat enough vegetables because you can’t stand the taste. Have no fear: Researchers say they can lace (with a legal substance, of course) vegetables and other unpopular foods to make their tastes more pleasant.

The Linguagen Corporation, a biotechnology company in New Jersey that is conducting taste research, recently received a patent for the first molecular compound that will block the taste of bitter foods. The compound, adenosine 5’ monophosphate or AMP, is naturally occurring and even found in human breast milk. The Linguangen Corporation claims that it can block some of the acidic tastes from being absorbed by the tongue and even improve the flavor of some foods. The hope is that one could enjoy a cup of coffee, for example, without excess sugar or cream. This means that we would consume healthier foods without adding fat or sugar to enhance the taste.

Shawn Marcell, the chief executive of Linguagen, says the company has received calls from “just about every food and beverage company” wanting in on the new compound and their research. These bitter blockers could also prove very helpful in concealing the taste of medications, such as cough syrups and even oral medications to treat HIV. While AMP sounds promising, the tongue has more than 30 bitter-taste receptors and finding a universal bitter blocker is almost impossible. Therefore, more compounds will have to be researched in order to account for different areas of the tongue.

Here’s how it should work: When a bitter blocker hits the tongue, it will prevent the bitter-taste receptors from being activated. The bitter taste would still be there, but the brain would not be able to recognize it.

With the bitter blockers, the brain may not be able to recognize the taste, but unless you’re blindfolded, asparagus will still be asparagus, even if they can be made to taste like chocolate.

Bitter May Be Better…
few reasons why these bitter blockers are so important
• About 1/4 of the population is extremely sensitive to bitter foods
• People who don’t eat bitter foods, such as dark green vegetables,
are at risk because they are avoiding some anti-cancer and disease-preventing foods

0 0 656 01 January, 2004 Health January 1, 2004

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