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J Food Sci. 2009 May-Jul;74(4):S165-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01127.x.

Effects of pH adjustment and sodium ions on sour taste intensity of organic acids.

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  • 1U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, USA.


Protonated organic acid species have been shown to be the primary stimuli responsible for sour taste of organic acids. However, we have observed that sour taste may be modulated when the pH of acid solutions is raised using sodium hydroxide. Objectives were to evaluate the effect of pH adjustment on sour taste of equimolar protonated organic acid solutions and to investigate the potential roles of organic anions and sodium ions on sour taste perception. Despite equal concentrations of protonated acid species, sour taste intensity decreased significantly with increased pH for acetic, lactic, malic, and citric acids (P < 0.05). Total organic anion concentration did not explain the suppression of sour taste in solutions containing a blend of 3 organic acids with constant concentration of protonated organic acid species and hydrogen ions and variable organic anion concentrations (R(2)= 0.480, P = 0.12). Sour taste suppression in these solutions seemed to be more closely related to sodium ions added in the form of NaOH (R(2)= 0.861, P = 0.007). Addition of 20 mM NaCl to acid solutions resulted in significant suppression of sour taste (P = 0.016). However, sour taste did not decrease with further addition of NaCl up to 80 mM. Presence of sodium ions was clearly shown to decrease sour taste of organic acid solutions. Nonetheless, suppression of sour taste in pH adjusted single acid solutions was greater than what would be expected based on the sodium ion concentration alone, indicating an additional suppression mechanism may be involved.

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