paper, co-authored with researchers at NIZO, published in the recent proceedings of the Weurman Symposium

The Question

This paper is the culmination of decades of research into the phenomenon of aroma-induced sweetness enhancement (AISE). Indeed, food aromas (as in’strawberry smell’) can produce vivid taste alterations (as in ‘sweet’). Imagine the benefits: Reducing caloric sweeteners while maintaining sweetness.

The main concern with AISE has always been that the effect may wear off after repeated consumption. The lack of sucrose may get noticed over time.

We put this concern to the test: “Is the perceived AISE robust for repeated exposure?” Or even stronger put: “is AISE robust for the explicit message that there is not as much sugar in there as one may think?”

The Experiment

Ethyl hexanoate (HEX) is an odorant produced by apples at advanced ripening stages, when sugars are also synthesised. After adding HEX to apple juice, 45 naive subjects indeed judged the juices sweeter, in line with the amounts of HEX added (left column in the figure). This effect was most pronounced for low-sugar apple juices. However, AISE collapsed after informing panellists repeatedly on the actual sugar contents of juices (columns 2 and 3). Did subjects acquire the ability to distinguish sugar-induced sweetness from AISE? The answer is no: Over time, during which subjects were not reminded of  sucrose contents, AISE did recover (column 4). Apparently, subjects forgot to apply the rule to trade aroma for sweetness.

Conclusion

Humans do not acquire the ability to distinguish between aroma-induced sweetness and sucrose-induced sweetness, even after intensive training. Hence, long-term sugar-reduction by AISE is possible in food!

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