4124 The Biological and Genetic Bases for Human Taste Perception and Preference

Saturday, February 19, 2011: 10:00 AM
146A (Washington Convention Center )
Gary Beauchamp , Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA
The flavor of a food or beverage is mediated by three separate chemosensory systems: taste, smell and chemical irritation (e.g. the burn of hot pepper or the cooling of menthol).  These flavor senses provide information on the acceptability of potential foods, stimulating intake of some while inhibiting intake of others. Many of the pleasures of eating and drinking are due to these flavor senses. However, since they play a central role in regulating food intake, their action indirectly impacts on many major human diseases including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Consequently, it is vital to understand how flavor preferences and hence food choices are determined and how they might be modulated.  In this presentation, these three chemical senses will first be outlined and some of their interactions at the peripheral and central levels will be described. Next recent studies on the origins of individual differences in flavor perception and preference will be reviewed. People live in different flavor worlds in part due to genetic variation in taste and smell receptors and this may influence food selection and health.  Differences in experiences with flavors also importantly modulate later flavor and food preferences. Early experiences, those occurring during fetal and early infancy, may have a particularly potent imprinting-like impact on long term flavor liking and food choice.  A fuller understanding of the flavor senses is vital to insuring that eating is both healthful and pleasurable.
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