Thursday, October 11, 2012


Food research is supposed to bring about better foods with better nutrition and health promoting properties. It is another matter that the R & D by the consumer food industry has a different take on this issue. After investing heavily in food processing enterprises, industry naturally wants to increase its business volume by enticing more consumers to better tasting foods with high sensory stimulation. If high sugar and high fat foods dominate the market to day the reason is not far to seek and it is a well established fact that human beings, especially kids are attracted and addicted to foods containing high amounts of sugar and fat. In an interesting study recently, scientists were able to peep into the human brain to understand how it reacts to ingestion of different foods and the findings were indeed amazing. If the interpretation of the results of studies as propounded by the scientists is to be taken at its face value, the capacity of the human brain to react and response to the sensory aspects of a food progressively diminishes with increased fat content of foods consumed. This finding has both negative and positive implications for the industry and the consumer. Here is a take on this interesting area of food-brain relationship.

"Fat can reduce activity in several brain areas responsible for processing taste, aroma and reward, says the first ever study on the subject. The research, carried out by the Britain's University of Nottingham and food major Unilever, provides the food industry with better understanding of how in the future it might be able to make healthier, less fatty food products without affecting their overall taste and enjoyment. This three-year study investigated how the brains of a group of participants in their 20s would respond to changes in the fat content of four different fruit emulsions they tasted while under an MRI scanner, the journal Chemosensory Perception reports. All four samples were of the same thickness and sweetness, but one contained flavour with no fat, while the other three contained fat with different flavour release properties, according to a Nottingham statement. The areas of the participants' brains which are responsible for the perception of flavour, were significantly more activated when the non-fatty sample was tested compared to the fatty emulsions despite having the same flavour perception. Joanne Hort, associate professor in sensory science at Nottingham said: "This is the first brain study to assess the effect of fat on the processing of flavour perception." Unilever food scientist Johanneke Busch, based in Vlaardingen, Netherlands, added: "There is more to people's enjoyment of food than the product's flavour, like its mouthfeel, its texture and whether it satisfies hunger, so this is a very important building 
block for us to better understand how to innovate and manufacture healthier food products which people want to buy."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
There are a couple of aspects of this study which deserves further attention. Association of a multinational food giant like Unilever is praiseworthy because this study proves that high fat foods, as being marketed to day are not good, affecting the natural working of the brain. The fact that the so called "lean foods" allow the brain to appreciate the flavor of foods better leaves adequate scope to develop better flavored foods with low fat contents. Naturally such foods presumably are better tuned to good health. On the negative side, industry might be tempted to invest less on improvement products by just hiking the sugar and fat contents in their new products. Of course such strategy may not work any more as the consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about sound nutrition and good health.




No comments: