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University of Kentucky researchers looking to make healthy food taste better

Stu Johnson

Efforts continue to develop attractive foods when it comes to flavor. Part of the end game is to see some tasty foods play a bigger role in preventing health problems.

The University of Kentucky played host to the International Society of Neurogastronomy last month. UK Physiology Professor Tim McClintock said people are hard wired since infancy to like sweet things, and to a lesser degree, fatty foods. He said the goal is to change that dynamic.

“Healthy diets need to be as flavorful and rewarding as diets that lead us to over consumption and therefore are unhealthy.”

And McClintock said these more tasteful foods need to be as inexpensive as the more highly processed foods. The UK physiologist cites two successes; more flavorful tomatoes and taste advances in whole grain used in bread.

McClintock said work continues to better understand how food flavor can be used to promote health.

McClintock said it’s not about making food a medicine.

“It’s not that were using food in the same way we use pharmaceutical drugs to treat disease or conditions. It’s that we’re mostly using food and flavor as a way to promote a health diet, as a preventative measure,” said McClintock.

McClintock said he works in the areas of smell and taste and how to modify that to make healthy foods more appealing. The UK physiologist noted people are hard-wired to like sweet things. McClintock added early humans found it difficult to get enough calories, so a reward system became established in the brain. McClintock said that’s become a difficult attraction to break.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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