Science Short

Beefing up health foods: Could cow peptides help mask bitter tastes of functional ingredients?

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

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Beef compounds could help improve the flavour and acceptability of functional ingredients with a bitter taste, according to researchers who report that certain beef peptides can block bitter taste receptors on the tongue.

For years the functional food – and pharmaceutical – industries have been looking for solutions to help mask the taste of compounds that can provide significant health benefits but taste bad due to their extremely bitter taste.

While a number of complimentary flavours and taste-masking solutions are already regularly used in the market, a team of Canadian researchers believe their new beefy discovery could help foods and medicines taste even better.

They found that when broken down into peptides, certain beef proteins can block bitter taste receptors on the tongue known as the T2R4 receptor.

Blocking bitter taste

The technique of using bioactive peptides to help block bitter tastes has increased rapidly in recent years. The approach generally breaks down food proteins – through a process known as enzymatic hydrolysis – to produce small peptides and protein hydrosolates which have been found to enhance certain tastes and block others.

However, only a few inhibitors of T2R activity have been identified so far, noted the team.

The team hydrolysed beef protein using six commercial enzymes (alcalase, chymotrypsin, trypsin, pepsin, flavourzyme, and thermoase) and then used electronic tongue measurements to assess how the newly formed peptides affected bitter taste perception.

Hydrolysates from the beef protein had significantly lower bitter scores than quinine, said the team – who added that the addition of the hydrolysates to quinine led to reduced bitterness intensity.

Eight peptides that were identified from the alcalase and chymotrypsin hydrolysates were also found to block bitter taste receptor activity in the T2R4.

Healthy applications?

Since there are a limited number of peptides that have been shown to block the T2R4 bitter taste receptor, the Canadian team suggest their findings could help the development of new health food products and medicines that do not have the bitter tastes associated with many existing products.

The group said the findings could have a significant benefit for the taste perception of healthy and functional foods in the food industry, and may also benefit the pharmaceutical industry as well.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Volume 66, Issue 19, Pages 4902–4912, doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.8b00830
“Beef Protein-Derived Peptides as Bitter Taste Receptor T2R4 Blockers”
Authors: Chunlei Zhang, et al

Related topics: Research

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