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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Jun;1043:1-8.

Historical perspective of the Maillard reaction in food science.

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Route du Tirage 1a, 1806, Saint-L├ęgier, Switzerland.


Maillard's paper of 1912 describing the reaction between amino acids and sugars is both innovative and visionary. It provides original and still-valuable data on the chemistry of a new reaction and foresees its involvement in many scientific and biological domains, even in human pathology. This paper was ignored by the scientific community until 1941. In 1948 the Maillard reaction was definitely recognized as being responsible for the browning and loss of nutritive value of heated milk powders. There was then a continuous increase in papers on the chemistry of this complex reaction to identify its various pathways: in food science, to evaluate the influence of reaction parameters (pH, T degrees , time, sugar reactivity, concentration of the reagents, water activity, glass transition temperature) on the evolution of the reaction and on changes in food quality; in nutrition, to quantify the loss of bioavailability of essential amino acids; on the metabolism of the reaction products and on the physiological effects of the ingested Maillard reaction products. The significant scientific advances and the key persons and pioneers who contributed much to the understanding of the Maillard reaction are presented. The food industry is directly concerned with the occurrence of this reaction in processed foods and contributed significantly by its own research to understanding the phenomena and to optimizing the processes and conditions of food preparation in order to preserve the nutritional, safety, and organoleptic qualities of foods.

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