Suppression of bitterness using sodium salts

Russell S.J. Keast, Paul A.S. Breslin, Gary K. Beauchamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Bitterness is an ongoing taste problem for both the pharmaceutical and food industries. This paper reports on how salts (NaCl, NaAcetate, NaGluconate, LiCl, KCl) and bitter compounds (urea, quinine-HCl, caffeine, amiloride-HCl, magnesium sulfate, KCl) interact to influence bitter perception. Sodium salts differentially suppress bitterness of these compounds; for example urea bitterness was suppressed by over 70% by sodium salts, while MgSO4 bitterness was not reduced. This study indicated that lithium ions had the same bitter suppressing ability as sodium ions, however the potassium cation had no bitter suppression ability. Changing the anion attached to the sodium did not affect bitter suppression, however, as the anion increased in size, perceived saltiness decreased. This indicates that sodium's mode of action is at the peripheral taste level, rather than a cognitive affect. A second experiment revealed that suppressing bitterness with a sodium salt in a bitter/sweet mixture causes an increase in sweetness. This suggests adding salt to a food matrix will not only increase salt perception, but also potentiate flavor by differential suppression of undesirable tastes such as bitter, while increasing more desirable tastes such as sweet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-447
Number of pages7
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry


  • Bitter suppression
  • Human psychophysics
  • Sodium
  • Sweet enhancement
  • Taste


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