Heightening taste using umami

July 23, 2013

A study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture examines how taste can be improved through the use of umami instead of salt. Our sense of taste can decline in old age or can be damaged by illness or long term use of medication. As taste influences our meal decisions, there are major health benefits to discovering ways of improving taste without resorting to salt or MSG, which may cause further health problems.

A team of nutritional experts have turned to umami, a savory taste and one of the five basic tastes. Umami taste in foods is elicited predominantly by the presence of glutamic acid and 5’-ribonucleotides, which act synergistically. This study aimed to use natural ingredients to maximize umami taste of a meat formulation and determine effects on liking of older consumers. The 66 volunteers (31 younger volunteers and 35 older volunteers) tasted cooked meat products with added natural ingredients (yeast extract, mycoscent, shiitake extract, tomato puree, soy sauce, and soybean paste) or monosodium glutamate (MSG) and compared them with a control sample analytically (umami compounds), sensorially (sensory profile), and hedonically (liking by younger and older volunteers). Taste detection thresholds of sodium chloride and MSG of volunteers were collected.

Four of the seven cooked meat products developed had a significantly higher content of umami-contributing compounds compared with the control. All products, except those containing MSG or tomato puree, were scored (by trained sensory panel) perceptually significantly higher in umami and/or salty taste compared with the control. Consumer tests showed a correlation of liking by the older cohort with perceived saltiness.

The researchers concluded that the addition of natural umami-containing ingredients during the cooking of meat can provide enhanced umami and salty taste characteristics. This can lead to increased liking by some consumers, particularly those with raised taste detection thresholds.