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Scientists Still Trying to Manipulate Our Tastes

The first molecular compound that will block bitter tastes in foods, beverages and some pharmaceuticals was patented in April. Fortunately, this is a natural compound named adenosine 5'-monophosphate, or AMP. It is found in human breast milk and when added to certain foods, including coffee and canned citrus fruit, it blocks some of the acidic tastes from being absorbed by the tongue.

Scientists have also discovered about 20 other compounds that block bitter tastes and received patents to use four of the compounds as bitter blockers--molecules that disguise bitter taste in food. Because humans have more than 30 bitter-taste receptors, finding a universal bitter blocker is nearly impossible.

Since AMP is generally regarded as safe and is not bioengineered, it appears to pose no safety risk to those who consume it in food or beverages. However, these other blockers are a clear concern and may present future problems, as did Olestra, Nutrasweet and Splenda.

New York Times August 26, 2003

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