Salt enhances flavour by suppressing bitterness

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Abstract

Salts are used as flavouring agents in the cuisines of many cultures1, the most commonly used being NaCl. They impart their own salty taste and enhance other flavours. The apparent ability to increase the intensity of other desirable flavours2,3 is puzzling as virtually all published psychophysical studies show that NaCl either suppresses or has no effect on other flavours3,4. To reconcile this contradiction we have proposed5 that salts selectively filter flavours, such that unpleasant tastes (such as bitterness) are more suppressed than palatable ones (such as sweetness) thereby increasing the salience and/or intensity of the latter. We now present evidence to support this idea.

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Figure 1: The normalized reported magnitude of the taste of various solution mixtures is shown.

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Breslin, P., Beauchamp, G. Salt enhances flavour by suppressing bitterness. Nature 387, 563 (1997) doi:10.1038/42388

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