Researchers describe how exactly ginger works to get rid of bad breath and how other food ingredients like citric acid affect our taste.
Human saliva contains a rich number of proteins and other complex molecules that play a role in our ability to taste and digest food, defend against foreign microbes, and other functional roles. Our saliva is estimated to have over 7400 proteins. Once someone tastes food or drinks, a series of reactions occur in saliva, including an increase in saliva production and a change in the types of proteins present in the saliva.
In a recent study, researchers detailed the types of changes that occur in saliva composition in the presence ginger. Specifically, they looked at how the enzyme called salivary sulfhydryl oxidase 1seems to increase in human saliva when exposed to 6-gingerol and how this helps to get rid of bad breath. This study was published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Volunteers from the Technical University of Munich in Germany enrolled in this study. The researchers collected saliva samples during the experiments. Saliva could be analyzed for composition and presence of certain components, such as sodium and amino acids.
Ginger changed proteins in saliva and decreased odor intensity
The researchers found that the protein composition of the saliva did change with 6-gingerol exposure. They were able to determine that the amount of sulfhydryl oxidase 1 could increase by 8 and 16 times when it is exposed to ginger.
When the 6-gingerol exposed saliva sample was exposed to 2-furfurylthiol (FFT), a component in foods like roasted coffee that contributes to a roast-like or sulfur-like odor, the FFT concentrations reduced. They found that the odor intensity was decreased with the influence of the 6-gingerol.
Overall, the authors suggested, that 6-gingerol increases the concentration of salivary enzyme sulfhydryl oxidase 1. Sulfhydryl oxidase 1 may then react with FFT – or other compounds in the same class as FFT that influence bad-breath odor associated with foods like roasted coffee – to get rid of bad breath.
The authors also suggest that there may be other mechanisms or components that also contribute to this pathway. They speculate that there may be advantages to the field of oral care if more research is made on the mechanisms contributing to chemosensory perception.
Citric acid reduces salty tastes
The researchers also examined how saliva changes when it is exposed to other food ingredients such as citric acid and aspartame, among others. Citric acid was shown to have the largest response. In addition to increased salivation, minerals such as sodium increased in the saliva in response to citric acid.
In another experiment where they used panelists to rate the saltiness of a sodium chloride solution (similar to table salt)after tasting a citric acid solution, the panelists noted that the salt solutions tasted less salty. Finally, at least in the citric acid example, changes in salivary composition seem to affect taste perception.
More research in the field of chemosensory stimulation, including odor and taste sensitivity, may pose a future advantage in oral health, among other fields.
Written by Olajumoke Marissa Ologundudu B.Sc. (Hons)
- Bader M, Stolle T, Jennerwein M, Hauck J, Sahin B, Hofmann T. Chemosensate-Induced Modulation of the Salivary Proteome and Metabolome Alters the Sensory Perception of Salt Taste and Odor-Active Thiols. J Agric Food Chem.2018;66(29):7740-7749. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.8b02772.
- Technical University of Munich. How food ingredients affect our taste perception Pungent tasting substance in ginger reduces bad breath. Technical University of Munich (2018). https://www.tum.de/nc/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/detail/article/34844/