Researchers have identified a flavour enhancer that could be used to reduce salt, sugar and monosodium glutamate (MSG) levels in our foods. The new compound is said to be the first to be found possessing each of the salty, sweet and savoury flavour enhancing properties.
The compound, called alapyridaine, was found to be present in both heated sugar/amino acid mixtures as well as in beef stock, according to the researchers led by Thomas Hofmann of the University of Munster in Germany.
In addition the compound is said to be tasteless on its own. Reporting on the findings, science journal Nature highlighted the importance of this property for the food industry, as current flavour enhancers such as MSG bring their own flavours to foodstuffs, thus limiting their use. For example, MSG could not be added to chocolate as it would taste savoury.
Alapyridaine was also shown to enhance not only single taste compounds, but also more complex mixtures, such as a combination of umami, salty and sweet tastes. Furthermore the researchers found that concentrations of sugar, salt or MSG could be decreased when used in conjunction with the new compound.
However, despite being labelled a general taste enhancer, the researchers report that perception of the bitter tastes of caffeine, as well as of sour-tasting citric acid (lemon juice), was unaffected.
The Munster team's findings are reported in Chemical Senses, 28, 371 - 379, (2003).