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Delayed Reaction: Inside the Retroaromatic Effect

Posted: December 8, 2008

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Such a study featured built-in difficulties. The process of developing a sensory panel was complicated, Starkenmann explained, because the compounds being tasted remain in the mouth for a great deal of time. “[Panelists] have to taste a solution and wait at least five or six minutes before the next one.”

Starkenmann et al. noted that the amount of bacteria in one’s mouth (some people produce more than others) and saliva flow affect the impact of the retroaromatic process. “We demonstrated in this article that the saliva played a very important role," he said. "Someone who brushes their teeth very well or who has a high flow of saliva is going to perceive these compounds less.” As previously mentioned, the interaction of saliva with sulfur compounds has already been established, but the question of how has remained. “Sulfur compounds begin to smell about 20 seconds after [consumption],” said Starkenmann. The compounds alone, he explained, disperse very quickly. However, in reaction to certain bacteria in the mouth, the effect lasts about 3 min. “The odor perception is much longer.”

Applications and Implications for Future Research
As the research was just released, Starkenmann could not go too deeply into the implications of the study. “If you think about onion or onion powder, for example, people like these in their snacks," he offered. "You take it in your mouth and it is very quickly gone. But the onion powder in snacks stays a long time.” The opportunities to formulate more effective snack flavors and oral care products are clear.

As for the future of retroaromatic research, Starkenmann believes this study could lead to new body and oral care products to combat body odor and halitosis. In addition, it marks a significant new milestone in the study of the way in which compounds behave in the mouth, opening the door for future organoleptic research.

References
1
C Starkenmann, B Le Calvé, Y Niclass, I Cayeux, S Beccucci and M Troccaz, Olfactory Perception of Cysteine−S-Conjugates from Fruits and Vegetables. J Agric Food Chem, 56 (20), 9575–9580 (2008)