Certain Food Proteins Reduce Bitterness and Pungency of EVOO

The findings could pave the way to increase the appeal of extra virgin olive oil for consumers turned off by bitter and pungent flavors.

Aug. 26, 2021
By Jasmina Nevada

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From Australia to Uruguay and California to Turkey, pro­duc­ers tell Olive Oil Times reporters that poten­tial cus­tomers are some­times put off by the bit­ter­ness and pun­gency of robust extra vir­gin olive oils.

These sen­sa­tions come from the polyphe­nols found in extra vir­gin olive oil, notably oleo­can­thal. Polyphenols are pow­er­ful antiox­i­dants and are respon­si­ble for many of the pro­duc­t’s health ben­e­fits.

The com­pounds believed to be the most impor­tant for extra vir­gin olive oil health ben­e­fits are also those evok­ing bit­ter­ness and throat pun­gency.- Catherine Peyrot des Gachons, research asso­ciate, Monell Chemical Senses Center

Now, a team of researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, where oleo­can­thal was first iden­ti­fied, have set out to study the rela­tion­ship between taste per­cep­tions and polyphe­nols more closely.

See Also: Tips for Selecting High-Polyphenol Olive Oils

They dis­cov­ered that a food-derived pro­tein from egg yolks can reduce or elim­i­nate both the oral pun­gency detected in the throat and bit­ter sen­sa­tions of extra vir­gin olive oil when bound to the appro­pri­ate pro­tein. This, they argue, may widen the appeal of extra vir­gin olive oil to the unanointed.

As part of the study, extra vir­gin olive oil was placed into a may­on­naise-type mate­r­ial. Several hours later the oil-may­on­naise mix­ture was found to be less pun­gent and bit­ter. The researchers con­cluded that this elim­i­na­tion of bit­ter­ness and pun­gency occurs when pro­teins bind with oleo­can­thal and other phe­no­lic com­pounds.

This demon­strates that phe­no­lic com­pounds and other reac­tive com­pounds often inter­act with pro­teins,” Catherine Peyrot des Gachons, a research asso­ciate at Monell, told Olive Oil Times.

In pres­ence of cer­tain pro­teins, the pun­gent oleo­can­thal and the bit­ter-tast­ing phe­no­lic com­pounds could no longer acti­vate their respec­tive sen­sory recep­tors,” she added. This means that the acti­va­tion of other phys­i­o­log­i­cal tar­gets might also be mod­i­fied, pos­i­tively (stronger acti­va­tion) or neg­a­tively (weaker acti­va­tion).

The researchers also found that the degree to which the pro­teins elim­i­nated the oral pun­gency detected in the throat and bit­ter­ness depended on the amount added. They argue that their find­ings will help pro­duc­ers bet­ter mar­ket their prod­ucts to con­sumers, rec­om­mend­ing that cer­tain extra vir­gin olive oils be used in cook­ing rather than fin­ish­ing, for exam­ple.

The study shows the per­cep­tual char­ac­ter­is­tics of an extra vir­gin olive oil tasted in liq­uid form will evolve depend­ing on its culi­nary use, and pun­gency and bit­ter­ness might be sup­pressed,” Peyrot des Gachons said.

However, she stip­u­lated that bet­ter edu­ca­tion for con­sumers may also make the sen­sa­tions more palat­able. Learning that oral pun­gency detected in the throat and bit­ter­ness are directly asso­ci­ated with extra vir­gin olive oil’s health ben­e­fits may tip the scales for many con­sumers any­ways.

What is fas­ci­nat­ing with a prod­uct like olive oil is the direct asso­ci­a­tion between the oil per­cep­tual prop­er­ties and its expected health-pro­mot­ing prop­er­ties,” Peyrot des Gachons said. The com­pounds believed to be the most impor­tant for extra vir­gin olive oil health ben­e­fits are also those evok­ing bit­ter­ness and throat pun­gency.”

She added that the Monell Chemical Senses Center plans to con­tinue research­ing oleocanthal’s prop­er­ties and bet­ter under­stand­ing how it inter­acts with other food com­po­nents.

We are par­tic­u­larly inter­ested in oleo­can­thal in our lab,” Peyrot des Gachons said. We are now study­ing the nature of the inter­ac­tion of oleo­can­thal with dif­fer­ent pro­teins with the goal of under­stand­ing how it might impact the acti­va­tion of some of its phys­i­o­log­i­cal tar­gets.”





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