April 12, 2011
PHILADELPHIAA strong bitter taste can cause people to both report the sensation of nausea and show a pattern of stomach activity characteristic of actual nausea, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology. The findings demonstrate the bodys ability to anticipate consequences of food we eat and as well as respond to the taste of possible toxins.
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 Chemical Senses Center. Our findings may help clinicians ease suffering in these patients by advising them to avoid strongly bitter foods."
Monell researchers studied 63 subjects who 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 strongly nauseated. A different bitter solution produced the same results. The findings were specifically related to bitter taste; sweet, salty or umami taste did not cause nausea.
To illustrate how bitter taste affected gastric motility, the researchers first simulated motion-related nausea. Stomach motor activity was recorded from subjects sitting in a drum with vertical black stripes painted inside while the drum rotated around their heads. All but one were strongly nauseated. The scientists then measured stomach activity from 23 subjects who were holding SOA in their mouths. Individuals who described feeling nauseous also had a pattern of stomach activity that was very similar to that recorded from those in the drum.
This is a wonderful example of what is called the wisdom of the body," Breslin said. The findings show that taste detects toxins before they enter our bodies. Further, their ingestion is punished by the feeling of nausea and our gastric function is disturbed to minimize their entry into our blood."
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