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Beef peptides block bitter tastes

May 16, 2018

From burgers to steaks, beef has a long history of being a delicious part of dinner. But what if that pleasant experience of eating beef could extend beyond the dinner plate? Now, one group reports in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that beef protein, when broken down into peptides, can block bitter taste receptors on the tongue. Such peptides could someday be used to make other foods and even medicines taste better.

Most people try to avoid bitter flavors because they find them to be unpleasant. But some healthful foods are bitter, as are some medications. So, the food and pharmaceutical industries have been looking at ways to reduce or eliminate bitter sensations, which are detected in humans by 25 receptors known as T2Rs. Only a few inhibitors of T2R activity have been identified so far. In recent years, bioactive peptides created from breaking down food proteins, through a process known as enzymatic hydrolysis, have gained attention for reducing bitterness and inflammation. Because beef proteins have been shown to generate desirable flavor-promoting peptides, Prashen Chelikani, Rotimi E. Aluko and colleagues wanted to see if these peptides could block bitter tastes.

The researchers hydrolyzed beef protein with six different enzymes: alcalase, chymotrypsin, trypsin, pepsin, flavourzyme and thermoase. Peptides produced from trypsin and pepsin digestion were the most effective in reducing the intensity of the bitterness of quinine in a test with an electronic tongue. These peptides were also the longest, which suggests that peptide size might play an important role. The group notes this could impact not only the food industry but the pharmaceutical industry as well.
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The authors acknowledge funding from the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

The abstract that accompanies this study is available here.

The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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