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Chem Senses. 2017 Dec 25;43(1):17-26. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjx063.

Interactions of Lemon, Sucrose and Citric Acid in Enhancing Citrus, Sweet and Sour Flavors.

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John B Pierce Laboratory, 290 Congress Avenue, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, USA.
John L. Miller Great Neck North High School, USA.
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, 60 College Street, USA.
Department of Psychology, Yale University, 2 Hillhouse Avenue, USA.


Flavorants such as lemon extract that activate olfactory receptors may also evoke or enhance flavor qualities such as sour and sweet that are typically considered gustatory. Similarly, flavorants such as sucrose and citric acid that activate gustatory receptors may enhance flavors such as citrus that are typically considered olfactory. Here, we ask how lemon extract, sucrose, and citric acid, presented separately and together, affect sweet, sour, and citrus flavors. We accomplished this by testing, in the same 12 subjects, lemon extract and sucrose (Experiment 1), lemon extract and citric acid (Experiment 2), and lemon extract, sucrose, and citric acid (Experiment 3). Results showed that both lemon extract and citric acid increased the ratings of citrus and sour intensity. Lemon extract did not affect sweet, but citric acid did, mainly in Experiment 3. Sucrose systematically increased only sweet intensity and modulated the effect of lemon extract on sour. The most robust multiquality effect was the enhancement of sour by lemon extract. These outcomes suggest, first, a role played by experience with the statistical associations of gustatory and olfactory flavorants and, second, that lemon flavor is complex, having citrus and sour qualities that may not be fully separable in perception.


citrus; flavor; gustation; olfaction; sour; sweet

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