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Physiol Behav. 2008 Oct 20;95(3):290-4. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.05.023. Epub 2008 Jun 5.

A physiological model of tea-induced astringency.

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Salivary Research Unit, King's College London Dental Institute, Guy's Hospital, London, SE1 9RT, United Kingdom.


The mechanism by which solutions containing polyphenols are perceived as astringent is not clearly understood. Salivary proline-rich proteins and histatins are products of salivary glands and rapidly bind polyphenols - thought to be the main astringent compound in such as tea and wine. However it is unclear how this interaction leads to the altered oral mouthfeel known as astringency which is characterised by a dry, puckered feeling all around the mouth. To determine the role of saliva in the perception of astringency a protocol was used to decrease the volume of saliva from the mouth (by washing with water) and then by chewing to increase the volume of saliva above resting levels. Following each of these conditions subjects tasted the same solution of black tea and were asked to rate the relative astringency. Compared to the astringency rating of black tea at rest the majority of subjects (10 out of 15) perceived an increase in astringency following washing the mouth with water. Most subjects then perceived a decrease in astringency following chewing compared to the previous state. In all subjects a reduction in salivary proteins was detected following water washout and an increase above resting levels detected following chewing although there was no change in oral mucosal wetness. A separate experiment revealed several of the proteins interacting following the water washout were salivary in origin. We conclude that salivary proteins in solution inhibit the mouthfeeling of astringency which is mediated, at least in part, by salivary proteins adhered to buccal mucosal cells.

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