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Chem Senses. 1995 Dec;20(6):609-23.

Suppression of bitterness by sodium: variation among bitter taste stimuli.

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Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3308, USA.


Taste interactions between salts (NaCl, LiCl, KCl, L-arginine:L-aspartic acid, Na-acetate and Na-gluconate) and bitter-tasting compounds (urea, quinine HCl, magnesium sulphate, KCl, amiloride HCl and caffeine) were investigated. In each study binary combinations of three or four concentrations of one bitter compound with four concentrations (0, 0.1, 0.3 and 0.5 M) of one salt were rated for bitterness and saltiness using the method of magnitude estimation. In most cases, perceived bitterness was suppressed by salts, although the degree of suppression varied. In general, bitterness suppression was not accompanied by an equivalent reciprocal suppression of saltiness. Only MgSO4 and amiloride had suppressing effects on the saltiness of NaCl at the intermediate concentrations and no bitter compound affected the saltiness at the high concentrations of NaCl. Since salt suppressed the bitterness of urea effectively, a detailed analysis of suppression of the bitterness of urea by different salts was conducted. Those studies indicated that the key component in this effect was the sodium or lithium ion for two reasons: first, all three sodium salts and the lithium salt had a suppressive effect on bitterness, whereas KCl did not; secondly, the effect of a salt on suppression of the bitterness of urea was independent of its perceived saltiness; that is, NaCl, Na-acetate (which is perceived as less salty than NaCl), and Na-gluconate (which is perceived as less salty than Na-acetate) reduced bitterness comparably. These results suggest that there is a major peripheral component to the suppression of the bitterness of urea, and perhaps other bitter tasting compounds, by sodium.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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