Ann-Marie Torregrossa, University at Buffalo, USA
Dr. Torregrossa is an Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo. She completed her PhD in 2009 at the University of Utah and became a postdoctoral fellow at Florida State University. Her work focuses on taste and food acceptance and has spanned fields from ecology to neuroscience. Her current focus is the role of salvia in taste and food acceptance. Saliva is indispensable for gustatory function. Taste compounds must dissolve in saliva before reaching their receptor targets giving saliva and its constituents the opportunity to interact with taste stimuli and receptors at the most fundamental level. The Torregrossa lab is using rodent models to explore how salivary protein expression can alter taste and feeding decisions.
Talk: The science of spit: A role for saliva in taste and food choice
People who do not prefer vegetables often cite bitterness as part of the reason these foods are avoided. Our lab is interested in how to alter bitter stimulus perception. Saliva is indispensable for gustatory function. Taste compounds must dissolve in saliva before reaching their receptor targets. Despite its necessity, and in spite of the fact that it is a diverse and variable solution, we often ignore the effect saliva may be having on taste perception and diet choice.
We have developed compelling evidence that proteins in saliva can alter taste perception and increase the acceptance of bitter foods. We have described how salivary proteins (SPs) and diet interact in a two-stage process. First, diet exposure induces specific changes in SP profile. Data from my lab suggest that the “profile” of an individual’s SPs is dictated by dietary exposure, e.g. some individuals may have certain proteins expressed at high levels in response to their commonly consumed foods, while others may have a different pattern of expression based on their food choices. Second, this new SP profile results in a change in diet acceptance. The presence of SPs upregulated by a bitter stimulus increases acceptance of similar stimuli in taste tests and measures of total food intake. We have also shown that the presence of SPs can decrease taste nerve signaling, as well as behaviors associated with both oral and post oral (gut) activation of bitter receptors.
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