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Sweet 'water taste' paradoxically predicts sweet taste inhibitors

A scientific paradox linking artificial sweeteners such as saccharin with a sensory experience in which plain water takes on a sweet taste has guided researchers to an increased understanding of how humans detect sweet taste.

Reporting in an advance online publication in Nature, scientists from the Monell Chemical Senses Center describe how certain artificial sweeteners, including sodium saccharin and acesulfame-K, paradoxically inhibit sweet taste at high concentrations. The researchers further report that taste perception switches back to sweetness when these high concentrations are rinsed from the mouth with water, resulting in the aftertaste experience known as sweet 'water taste.'

The Nature article describes the phenomenon of sweet 'water taste' and then goes on to explain it at the level of the sweet taste receptor.

"These findings will open doors for tweaking the sweet taste receptor and finding new sweeteners and inhibitors that can be used both by food industry and in medicine," states senior author Paul A.S. Breslin, PhD, a Monell geneticist.

Lead author Veronica Galindo-Cuspinera, PhD, noted while working on a separate study that saccharin commonly used at low concentrations as an artificial sweetener loses its initially sweet taste when tasted at high concentrations. Galindo-Cuspinera subsequently observed that strong sweetness returned when the high concentrations of saccharin were rinsed from the mouth with water.

Working with Breslin, she next discovered that high concentrations of saccharin inhibit the sweetness of any other sweetener tasted at the same time.

Testing a variety of compounds, the researchers found that any sweetener that elicits sweet 'water taste' also acts as a sweet taste inhibitor.

To understand how sweet 'water taste' compounds could act both as a sweetener and as a sweet inhibitor, collaborators Marcel Winnig, Bernd Bufe, and Wolfgang Meyerhof of the German Inst
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Contact: Paul Breslin
breslin@monell.org
215-898-5021
Monell Chemical Senses Center
23-Apr-2006


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