Individual differences in the efficacy of sodium chloride and sucrose as bitterness suppressors of brassicaceae vegetables
The unpleasant bitter taste found in many nutritious vegetables may deter their consumption. While bitterness suppression by prototypical tastants is well-studied in the chemical and pharmacological fields, mechanisms to reduce the bitterness of foods such as vegetables remain to be elucidated. Here tastants representing the taste primaries of salty and sweet were investigated as potential bitterness suppressors of three types of Brassicaceae vegetables. The secondary aim of these studies was to determine whether the bitter masking agents were differentially effective for bitter-sensitive and bitter-insensitive individuals. In all experiments, participants rated vegetables plain and with the addition of tastants. In Experiments 1-3, sucrose and NNS suppressed the bitterness of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, whereas NaCl did not. Varying concentrations of NaCl and sucrose were introduced in Experiment 4 to assess the dose-dependency of the effects. While sucrose was a robust bitterness suppressor, NaCl suppressed bitterness only for participants who perceived the plain Brussels sprouts as highly bitter. Experiment 5, through the implementation of a rigorous control condition, determined that some but not all of this effect can be accounted for by regression to the mean. Individual variability in taste perception as determined by sampling of aqueous bitter, salty, and sweet solutions did not influence the degree of suppression by NaCl or sucrose. Consumption of vegetables is deterred by their bitter taste. Utilizing tastants to mask bitterness, a technique that preserves endogenous nutrients, can circumvent this issue. Sucrose is a robust bitter suppressor whereas the efficacy of NaCl is dependent upon bitterness perception of the plain vegetables.