Scientists identify the flavour that helps us eat less

Sussex scientists identify the flavour that helps us eat less
Full of flavour? Scientists say umami, the flavour that gives food its deliciousness, could help in regulating appetite.

The flavour that gives food its "deliciousness" could also be telling us information about its protein content, according to new research by the University of Sussex.

Umami (meaning 'deliciousness' in Japanese) is recognised as our fifth sense of – the others being sweet, salty, sour and bitter – and is actually the chemical glutamate, a protein found in meat (it gives bacon its tastiness), and other savoury foods such as Marmite, parmesan cheese and shiitake mushrooms.

A study, based on the psychology research of Dr Una Masic during her doctorate at the University of Sussex, together with her supervisor Professor Martin Yeomans, reveals that it is also the flavour that helps us to feel full.

Professor Yeomans says: "We know from past research, including previous work at Sussex, that foods with a high tend to satisfy your appetite better than do carbohydrate and fat-rich foods. So if protein is satisfying, and umami signals the presence of protein, in this study we asked whether the presence of itself reduced subsequent appetite."

The current study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at the effects of two common food additives on levels of hunger.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and inosine monophosphate (IMP), which are known to produce the flavour of 'umami', were added to both a low-energy version of a spiced carrot soup and the same soup with energy added covertly (as a mixture of and carbohydrate).

Dr Masic then tested how hungry people (26 healthy volunteers) felt and how much they consumed at a later meal.

The soups enhanced with umami-taste were found to reduce the amount subsequently eaten by participants when compared to the same soup without added umami. But the umami manipulation did not influence the experience of hunger, so participants ate less but did not feel hungrier as a consequence of eating less if the soup had the umami taste.

The effects of umami were stronger when consumed in the higher-energy soup. This research suggests that umami taste can reduce appetite, at least in some conditions, and so umami-enriched foods may help people with weight concerns to regulate their appetite.

Professor Yeomans says: "How umami achieves this effect is less clear, and we will be looking for future funding to help us answer that question."

More information: Una Masic and Martin R Yeomans. "Umami flavor enhances appetite but also increases satiety."
Am J Clin Nutr 2014 100: 2 532-538; First published online June 18, 2014. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.113.080929

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Stress hormone receptors localized in sweet taste cells

Jun 03, 2014

According to new research from the Monell Center, receptors for stress-activated hormones have been localized in oral taste cells responsible for detection of sweet, umami, and bitter. The findings suggest ...

How do you stop tasting?

Aug 02, 2011

New findings may lend insight into why some people are especially sensitive to bitter tastes. Scientists from the Monell Center and Givaudan Flavors have identified a protein inside of taste cells that acts to shorten bitter ...

Recommended for you

The hunt for botanicals

Dec 19, 2014

Herbal medicine can be a double-edged sword and should be more rigorously investigated for both its beneficial and harmful effects, say researchers writing in a special supplement of Science.

Mozambique decriminalises abortion to stem maternal deaths

Dec 19, 2014

Mozambique has passed a law permitting women to terminate unwanted pregnancies under specified conditions, a move hailed by activists in a country where clandestine abortions account for a large number of maternal deaths.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

viet_lam_777363
not rated yet Jul 24, 2014
So by promoting "No MSG Added" foods and hyping up the dangers of MSG, the West are unwittingly set themselves up along the path of eating like pigs and got fat like them.
Elsewhere on the planet, MSG is an essential part of the diet, and almost everyone is not overweight, except the rich pigs.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.