Skip to main content

Taste–nutrient relationships in commonly consumed foods

  • Mirre Viskaal van Dongen (a1), Marjolijn C. van den Berg (a1), Nicole Vink (a1), Frans J. Kok (a1) and Cees de Graaf (a1)...

Taste is expected to represent a food's nutrient content. The objective was to investigate whether taste acts as nutrient-sensor, within the context of the current diet, which is high in processed foods. Intensities of the five basic tastes of fifty commonly consumed foods were rated by nineteen subjects (aged 21·0 (sd 1·7) years, BMI 21·5 (sd 2·0) kg/m2). Linear regression was used to test associations between taste and nutrient contents. Food groups based on taste were identified using cluster analysis; nutrient content was compared between food groups, using ANOVA. Sweetness was associated with mono- and disaccharides (R2 0·45, P < 0·01). Saltiness and savouriness were correlated, with r 0·92 (P < 0·01) and both were associated with Na (both: R2 0·33, P < 0·01) and protein (R2 0·27, P < 0·01 and R2 0·33, P < 0·01, respectively). Cluster analysis indicated four food groups: neutral, salty and savoury, sweet–sour and sweet foods. Mono- and disaccharide content was highest in sweet foods (P < 0·01). In salty and savoury foods, protein content (P = 0·01 with sweet–sour foods, not significant with neutral or sweet foods) and Na content (P < 0·05) were the highest. Associations were more pronounced in raw and moderately processed foods, than in highly processed foods. The findings suggest that sweetness, saltiness and savouriness signal nutrient content, particularly for simple sugars, protein and Na. In highly processed foods, however, the ability to sense nutrient content based on taste seems limited.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Taste–nutrient relationships in commonly consumed foods
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Taste–nutrient relationships in commonly consumed foods
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Taste–nutrient relationships in commonly consumed foods
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: M. Viskaal van Dongen, email
Hide All
1Yeomans, MR, Leitch, M, Gould, NJ, et al. (2008) Differential hedonic, sensory and behavioral changes associated with flavor–nutrient and flavor–flavor learning. Physiol Behav 93, 798806.
2Brunstrom, JM (2007) Associative learning and the control of human dietary behavior. Appetite 49, 268271.
3Stubbs, RJ, Johnstone, AM, Mazlan, N, et al. (2001) Effect of altering the variety of sensorially distinct foods, of the same macronutrient content, on food intake and body weight in men. Eur J Clin Nutr 55, 1928.
4Johnson, J & Vickers, Z (1993) Effects of flavor and macronutrient composition of food servings on liking, hunger and subsequent intake. Appetite 21, 2539.
5Scott, TR (2011) Taste as a basis for body wisdom. Physiol Behav 104, 5763.
6Yarmolinsky, DA, Zuker, CS & Ryba, NJ (2009) Common sense about taste: from mammals to insects. Cell 139, 234244.
7Temussi, PA (2009) Sweet, bitter and umami receptors: a complex relationship. Trends Biochem Sci 34, 296302.
8Scott, TR (2008) Orosensory control of feeding. In Appetite and Food Intake: Behavioral and Physiological Considerations [Harris, RBS and Mattes, RD, editors]. Boca Raton: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.
9Slimani, N, Deharveng, G, Southgate, DAT, et al. (2009) Contribution of highly industrially processed foods to the nutrient intakes and patterns of middle-aged populations in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study. Eur J Clin Nutr 63, S206S225.
10Davidson, TL & Swithers, SEA (2004) Pavlovian approach to the problem of obesity. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 28, 933935.
11Bartoshuk, LM (1993) The biological basis of food perception and acceptance. Food Qual Pref 4, 2132.
12Bartoshuk, LM, Duffy, VB & Miller, IJ (1994) PTC/PROP tasting: anatomy, psychophysics, and sex effects. Physiol Behav 56, 11651171.
13Tepper, BJ, Christensen, CM & Cao, J (2001) Development of brief methods to classify individuals by PROP taster status. Physiol Behav 73, 571577.
14Hulshof, KFAM, Ocké, M, van Rossum, CTM et al. (2003) Results of the National Food Consumption Survey 2003 Report no. RIVM report 350030002/2004.
15Meilgaard, MC, Civille, GV & Carr, BT (2006) Sensory Evaluation Techniques, 4th ed.Ann Arbor, MI: CRC Press.
16Netherlands Nutrition Center (2006) Dutch Food Composition Table. The Hague: Netherlands Nutrition Center.
17Netherlands Nutrition Center (1995) Dutch Food Composition Table. The Hague: Netherlands Nutrition Center.
18Gibson, EL, Wainwright, CJ & Booth, DA (1995) Disguised protein in lunch after low-protein breakfast conditions food-flavor preferences dependent on recent lack of protein intake. Physiol Behav 58, 363371.
19Rolls, BJ (1986) Sensory-specific satiety. Nutr Rev 44, 93101.
20de Graaf, C & Frijters, JE (1989) Interrelationships among sweetness, saltiness and total taste intensity of sucrose, NaCl and sucrose/NaCl mixtures. Chem Senses 14, 81102.
21Green, BG, Lim, J, Osterhoff, F, et al. (2010) Taste mixture interactions: suppression, additivity, and the predominance of sweetness. Physiol Behav 101, 731737.
22Savica, V, Bellinghieri, G & Kopple, JD (2010) The effect of nutrition on blood pressure. Annu Rev Nutr 30, 365401.
23Woods, SC (2009) The control of food intake: behavioral versus molecular perspectives. Cell Metab 9, 489498.
24Raben, A, Vasilaras, TH, Moller, AC, et al. (2002) Sucrose compared with artificial sweeteners: different effects on ad libitum food intake and body weight after 10 wk of supplementation in overweight subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 76, 721729.
25Tordoff, MG & Alleva, AM (1990) Effect of drinking soda sweetened with aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup on food intake and body weight. Am J Clin Nutr 51, 963969.
26Cotton, JR, Burley, VJ, Weststrate, JA, et al. (1996) Fat substitution and food intake: effect of replacing fat with sucrose polyester at lunch or evening meals. Br J Nutr 75, 545556.
27Stubbs, RJ (2001) The effect of ingesting olestra-based foods on feeding behavior and energy balance in humans. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 41, 363386.
28Mattes, RD & Popkin, BM (2009) Nonnutritive sweetener consumption in humans: effects on appetite and food intake and their putative mechanisms. Am J Clin Nutr 89, 114.
29Bellisle, F & Drewnowski, A (2007) Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight. Eur J Clin Nutr 61, 691700.
30Swithers, SE, Martin, AA & Davidson, TL (2010) High-intensity sweeteners and energy balance. Physiol Behav 100, 5562.
31Viskaal-van Dongen, M, de Graaf, C, Siebelink, E, et al. (2009) Hidden fat facilitates passive overconsumption. J Nutr 139, 394399.
32Yasuo, T, Kusuhara, Y, Yasumatsu, K, et al. (2008) Multiple receptor systems for glutamate detection in the taste organ. Biol Pharm Bull 31, 18331883.
33Chandrashekar, J, Hoon, MA, Ryba, NJ, et al. (2006) The receptors and cells for mammalian taste. Nature 444, 288294.
34Mattes, RD (2001) The taste of fat elevates postprandial triacylglycerol. Physiol Behav 74, 343348.
35Stewart, JE, Feinle-Bisset, C & Keast, RS (2011) Fatty acid detection during food consumption and digestion: associations with ingestive behavior and obesity. Prog Lipid Res 50, 225233.
36Mattes, RD (2009) Is there a fatty acid taste? Annu Rev Nutr 29, 305327.
37Ruijschop, RM, Boelrijk, AE, de Graaf, C, et al. (2009) Retronasal aroma release and satiation: a review. J Agric Food Chem 57, 98889894.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed