21 March 2012

Bitter Blockers

Discovered by LSU AgCenter Department of Food Science, the product has not yet found it's way into the market place and is not the first of its kind. There was similar excitement about a year ago over GIV3616 which was developed to block and sweeten bitter "off notes" in food. The blocker targets certain taste buds and keeps them from recognising bitter tastes.

Thanks to evolution we have been conditioned to associate bitter flavour with danger or poison. Now, there are various arguments based around this slowly being out of us and in, especially certain parts of the world, we are developing a much higher tolerance to bitterness.

The problem comes when food companies start to us excessive salts, sugars and fats to mask "off" flavours in their foods. They hoped that GIV3616 would be able to address that balance and retain a delicious flavour but create healthier foods, including non-calorie soft drinks and bitter medications.

Bitter blockers were believed to be of most use to the 25% of the population who are labelled "super tasters" . Though the blocker will not completely diminish the bitterness in this particular group it will manage it and keep the unwanted flavour at acceptable levels.

John Finley, one half of the duo who developed the most recent product had this to say

“Earlier work with aspartame blocked bitterness in soy products, so we thought we could get similar results with mogroside V – an intense sweetener derived from plant sources.”

The compound masks bitter and astringent flavours and allows the addition of ingredients such as glycerine, ethanol, and potassium salts without effecting the flavour.

The chemical doing all the hard work is morgroside which is an intense sweetener derived from plants and is 300 times sweeter than sugar. Morgroside is made up of several different sweet chemical compounds found in Asian Monk Fruit, or luo han duo amongst others.

The duo set out to discover whether morgroside could block the bitterness in glycerine and salts which if used in high quantities can cause health problems. To their glee they found it did.

The next test pitted mogroside against potassium which is often used in place of salt but has a natural bitterness. They focused on the use of potassium in beverages such as sports and energy drinks. They again found that mogroside blocked the bitterness and enhanced the flavour of the drink.

Further experiments found the bitter blocker worked on products including soy beans, vegetables and Hominex, a mixture of amino acids that is often used as a source of protein amongst children with cystinurea.

Despite the wide range of possible applications the pair believe the real opportunity is within the world of beverages. Drinks would be high in potassium but taste sweeter and less salty.

Though the product may still be a way off, if at all, it could pose an interesting addition to bitter bar products. Drinks could be bitterer to taste without having to use the addition of sugar and overly sweetening the drink. With a trend for negroni's and Campari based drinks growing this could prove a special addition to the summer drink set.

Whatever the future may hold, mogrosides predecessor GIV3616 does not appear to have revolutionised the bitter foods department. If anyone has any further information do get in touch at the email address provided.

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