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Food flavour on a molecular scale

Posted on 18 October 2017

Dr Seishi Shimizu, in collaboration with Professor Steven Abbott of TCNF Ltd and Professor Matubayasi of Osaka University, has been measuring how much vanilla, almond or lemon flavour is bound to food macromolecules, which is crucial to understanding food flavour and aroma.

A bowl of custard releasing vanillin

For many decades, experimental data on flavour-food binding was analysed using chemical equations even though the dynamic and fluctuating nature of binding cannot easily be simplified in this way.

Starting from the fundamental laws of statistical thermodynamics and fuelled by tea and coffee, Dr Shimizu and Professor Matubayasi wrote down a theory that can be used to capture such non-specific aroma-food interactions.

Professor Steven Abbott of TCNF Ltd. turned their theory into a web-based app so food scientists can calculate food-aroma interactions simply in the lab using their phones and tablets.

Dr Shimizu said “It is gratifying to see how theory, developed only by pen and paper, is still so powerful in solving fundamental questions on food.”

Their review, “Quantifying non-specific interactions between flavour and food biomolecules” has been featured as the front cover image of Food & Function, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

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