A new wave of ingestible chemicals are on their way, and while I’m still skeptical, the active ingredient is a common molecule called AMP, found naturally in the human body as an enzyme regulator (as well as other uses of which I’m unaware).
The street name for chemicals is “bitter blockers,” because when ingested with bitter foods, bitter-detecting taste buds are less activated, making us taste less of the bitter in the foods and drinks. The New York Times has a piece on this latest biotechnology, and food and beverage companies seem to be swarming.
According to the Times:
bq(quote). While many people think sugar and salt are added to foods simply to increase flavor, often the additives mask other, less agreeable tastes. Processed foods, like canned soups, sauces and potato chips, have high amounts of salt to mask the bitter tastes that emerge during the extremely hot cooking process. Some soft drinks are filled with sugars to tone down the bitter taste of caffeine.
The product has been received well in the lab, at least, to de-bitter grapefruit juice and coffee; in an even more useful setting, the bitter blockers might be used to make drugs more tolerable to swallow, including HIV cocktails, which are infamous for their intolerable taste.
If the AMP works without side effects, I think these could be a blessing to nutritionists–allowing manufacturers to add less salt, sugar, and fat to products in order to mask unwanted flavors. Until more Americans learn to slow down or eat healthier, hopefully microwave dinners will be a little better for us. But I still tend to agree with Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington:
bq(quote). “If companies use this to market products that are healthier, more power to them. If they used higher-quality ingredients or didn’t cook them to death, they wouldn’t taste bitter in the first place.”