How often do we gaze intently at our beautiful salad, fantasizing that we could transform it into the greasy pizza or burrito that we actually want to be eating?
Science may be about to give us the next best thing: the Gas Chromatograph-Olfactometry Associated Taste device, otherwise known as the GC-OAT.
The GC-OAT (dig that catchy acronym) is based on the concept that the smell of the foods we crave can actually satiate those cravings, even if we're not actually getting the sweet, fatty treats we're lusting after. Scientists have harnessed these scents, which they refer to as odor compounds, and are using them to trick our brains (and digestive systems!) into thinking we're gorging on cheat-day foods when we’re eating the most virtuously healthy snacks.
"Most consumers know that they should be eating more healthful foods made with reduced amounts of fat, sugar and salt. But this is problematic because these are the very ingredients that make many of the foods we like taste so delicious," project researcher Thierry Thomas-Danguin, Ph.D. told Science Daily. "Based on our lab work, we've come to believe that aromas can help compensate for the reduction of fat, sugar and salt in healthful foods and make them more appealing to consumers."
In their research, Thomas-Danguin and his team at Centre des Sciences du Goût de l'Alimentation in France created the GC-OAT and used it in conjunction with an olfactoscan, which brought a variety of aromas via a tube directly into a study subject’s nose. These subjects were asked to smell fruit juice, followed by various non fruit-juice mixtures into which the aroma molecules of the fruit juice had been added. The subjects smelled the “perceived sweetness” of the fruit juice, which suggests that people can have the same experience with other healthy foods without sacrificing the aroma or taste pleasure of the sweeter foods they'd rather be indulging in.
This device isn't just for those with a sweet tooth: In an earlier study, the subjects were given flan to taste. The flan incorporated salt scents and the aroma of ham. The results showed that even though there was no salt in the flan, the subjects tasted salt when they ate it. Great news for anyone trying to step away from those eternally addictive salty snacks.
While this sounds like a whole lot of scientific jargon, the gist is that there's an actual tool in the works that we might be able to get our hands on soon. Those steamed veggies won't be turning into brownies anytime soon, but hey, we'll take the blissful delusion.
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