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The nauseating taste of bitter
Date:4/11/2011

PHILADELPHIA (April 11, 2011) Swallow the good, spit out the bad. A new study from the Monell Center highlights the vital role taste plays as the body's gatekeeper. The research shows that strong bitter taste in and of itself can cause people to both report the sensation of nausea and display a pattern of stomach activity characteristic of actual nausea.

"Nausea is a huge negative modulator of quality of life for many people, including pregnant women, patients undergoing chemotherapy, and virtually all types of GI patients," said senior author Paul A.S. Breslin, Ph.D., a sensory scientist at Monell. "Our findings may help clinicians ease suffering in these patients by advising them to avoid strongly bitter foods."

The findings demonstrate that our bodies anticipate the consequences of food we eat. It was already known that the taste of nutrients such as sugars and fats causes the body to release hormones in preparation for digestion and metabolism. The current study reveals that the body also responds to the taste of possible toxins.

Bitter taste is thought to have evolved to signal the potential presence of toxins, which are abundantly present in plants. Breslin believes that strong bitter taste causes the bad feeling of nausea "to punish us so that we won't eat that toxin again." Thus nausea serves to distinguish the everyday bitterness of foods like coffee, chocolate, and beer from the very strong bitterness of potentially poisonous substances.

In the study, published in Current Biology, 63 subjects sampled an intensely bitter but non-toxic solution known as sucrose octa-acetate (SOA). After holding the solution in their mouths for three minutes, they were asked to rate the degree of perceived nausea. Sixty-five percent were at least mildly to moderately nauseated and 20 percent indicated that they were strongly nauseated. A different bitter solution produced the same results. The findings were specifically related to bit
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Contact: Leslie Stein
stein@monell.org
267-519-4707
Monell Chemical Senses Center
Source:Eurekalert

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