The role of capsaicin in food liking and salt preference

AbScent's first research grant is supporting a project led by Dr Stephanie Hunter at Monell

Understanding the role of capsaicin in food like and salt preference

Dr Hunter's goal is to find and share strategies that people with smell loss can use to make food taste better and more enjoyable, without contributing to risk for chronic disease.

We are delighted to award our very first research grant to Dr Stephanie Hunter at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia.

Explaining her project, Stephanie says, "When people lose their sense of smell, they often find food less enjoyable and as a result report a reduced quality of life. Some say they add more salt to their food to enhance flavour and enjoy food again. However, this can lead to excess salt intake, which can increase risk for high blood pressure. Some people report adding capsaicin, or spiciness, to their foods to get back flavour and food enjoyment after smell loss; unlike salt, capsaicin does not lead to high blood pressure and may even help reduce salt intake. However, whether adding capsaicin produces measurable improvements in food liking and enjoyment has not been studied in those with smell loss."

they add more salt to ... enhance flavor and enjoy food again. However, this can lead to excess salt intake

Capsaicin is an active component of chili peppers. This study will determine if adding capsaicin increases liking and enjoyment of foods for people with smell loss, and whether capsaicin lowers the preferred amount of salt in a sample. In particular, it aims to:

1. Establish current nutrient, salt, and capsaicin intakes and eating behaviour changes in those with smell loss. We hypothesize that there will be differences in eating behavior after smell loss and that current sodium intake will be high compared to recommended levels.

2. Quantify liking and preference of a meal with and without capsaicin in individuals with smell loss. We hypothesise that adding capsaicin to a food in those with smell loss will increase liking and preference compared to the same food without capsaicin.

3. Determine if capsaicin increases salt taste sensitivity and reduces salt preference in individuals with smell loss. We hypothesise that the addition of capsaicin to an NaCl solution will increase salt taste sensitivity and reduce the preferred concentration of salt in solution.

Stephanie's project will begin in September 2021 and results will be reported in the summer 2022.