Mouth saliva controls the taste

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Mouth saliva enzyme controls the taste and texture of foods in the mouth

The tongue feels the nature of the food. People can perceive the nature of food in the mouth very differently. Whether a food tastes tender, chewy or mushy depends largely on the composition of the mouth saliva. The enzyme "amylase" plays a major role in this, as scientists from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia found in a study.

Have you ever noticed it before? One tastes "creamy", the other experiences it as "mushy". How someone perceives the nature of food depends largely on the genetic composition of their own saliva enzyme. The enzyme “amylase” plays a special role in this. This protein determines how someone subjectively perceives the nature of the food. This can sometimes be very different. Because the amount and activity of the enzyme is very likely genetically predetermined. The composition of the enzyme may decide whether you like a meal or not.

To measure this relationship, Abigail Mandel's researchers from the “Monell Chemical Senses Center” in Philadelphia took saliva samples from 73 volunteers in a study. On the one hand, the scientists mixed the saliva with starch in the experimental setup, and then analyzed how the consistency of the added starch changes the enzymatic breakdown. On the other hand, the researchers examined the content and activity of the enzyme amylase in the different saliva samples, which breaks down the starch into its components. During the course of the study, the study participants should describe how they experience their mouthfeel if they keep the strength in their mouth for exactly 60 seconds. The experiment showed that the subjects' perceptions were quite different. The reason for this is that everyone had a different amount of the named enzyme. "What one perceives as a viscous mass feels noticeably thin in the mouth of the other," explains study author Paul Breslin.

After this observation, the researchers investigated the genetic influence on the activity and amount of the saliva enzyme in order to provide appropriate scientific evidence. For this purpose, the genetic material of 62 subjects was examined for the amylase gene "AMY1". From previous studies, the researchers knew that the number of this gene varies in humans between two and fifteen. This made it clear that the number of copies of the gene is directly related to the activity and amount of the amylase enzyme. If a person has more copies in the genome, the number and the activity of the amylase enzyme in the mouth saliva is higher.

Now the US researchers want to go one step further and examine the amount of these copies in the context of starchy food preferences. Starchy foods are, for example, rice, potatoes, bread or bread rolls. In addition, research is now underway to determine whether the amount and activity of the enzyme in saliva also has an effect on the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates in the body. It could be that a high proportion of amylase enzyme influences insulin resistance and thus diabetes. (sb, October 14, 2010)

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