Savoury foods, be it dairy products, fish, or meat, can impact the brain and promote healthy eating. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centerhave found that consuming a broth rich in umami — or savoury taste — can cause subtle changes in the brain that promote healthy eating behaviours and food choices, especially in women at risk of obesity.
Umami is a Japanese word used to express a delicious, savoury meal, and it represents one of the five basic tastes, together with sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. A key component of umami taste is glutamate, a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid that can be found in nearly all foods, and especially in foods high in protein such as dairy products, fish, and meat.
In the study, researchers evaluated changes in the brains of healthy young women after they consumed chicken broth with or without MSG added. After eating the umami-rich broth, participants performed the inhibitory control test better, and had more engagement of a brain area that is linked to successful self-regulation during food choice. Those at higher risk of obesity also consumed less saturated fat during the meal.
“Previous research in humans studied the effects of umami broths on appetite, which is typically assessed with subjective measures. Here, we extended these findings replicating the beneficial effects of umami on healthy eating in women at higher risk of obesity, and we used new laboratory measures that are sensitive and objective,” said senior author Miguel Alonso-Alonso.
He also noted that research has examined the effects of sugar and sweetness on the brain, but the study of savoury taste has been limited. The results may open new ways to facilitate healthy eating and reduce food intake in the general population. “Many cultures around the world advocate drinking a broth before a meal. Our study suggests the possibility that people at high risk of obesity could benefit from an umami-rich broth before a meal to facilitate healthy eating and healthy food choice,” said Alonso-Alonso.
The study appeared in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.