Dynamics of texture and taste perception
This project aimed to uncover and validate the oral mechanisms involved in the temporal perception of texture and taste, and to provide design rules for fat, salt and sugar reduction in foods. Factors which contribute to the temporal perception of texture and taste have been determined by establishing relationships between food properties, oral behaviour, oral coatings, food breakdown, tastant-macronutrient interactions and sensory perception.
The project demonstrated that sensory attributes are perceived in a specific order during oral processing, and depend on both food structure and oral-processing behaviour. In the project it was shown that consumers with contrasting eating behaviours perceive the same product very differently. The perceptual differences between consumer groups can be explained by the specific oral behaviour they apply, and the transitions and breakdown of food structures during mastication. Experimental methodologies to characterise oral coatings and establish correlations between the properties of food stimulus, oral coating and dynamic sensory perception were developed. Eating is not a simple process of food breakdown, but a highly-sophisticated process involving physiological, psychological and neurological human responses to the changing properties of foods. Various experimental techniques were developed, including measuring electrical activity in masticatory muscles (electromyography), observations of tongue movements using electromagnetic articulography and quantification of oral coatings based on in vivo fluorescence and ex vivo chemical analysis.
This project has successfully linked food properties, such as mechanical and sensory characteristics, to oral-processing behaviour. This has advanced our understanding of the eating process, and bridged the knowledge gap between oral-processing behaviour and food structure. The fundamental knowledge provided by the project will assist the food industry to provide products that are low in fat, salt or sugar and retain excellent sensory performance.