Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Food Science

Major Professor

Curtis R. Luckett

Committee Members

John P. Munafo, Tao Wu


The average American consumes sodium at excessive levels resulting in a multitude of adverse health effects. To reduce these risks, it is imperative to lower consumption rates. When sodium is reduced in a product, the main effect is decreased saltiness and often corresponds with reduced consumer acceptance. In addition to addressing the issue of sodium reduction, attenuating effects such as reduced consumer acceptance is also of importance.

Consuming and perceiving food is a multimodal experience, involving tastes, smells, and trigeminal sensations to produce a singular percept of flavor. This is an example of multisensory integration. When stimuli through different sensory input are associated with one another based on previous experiences, this results in a psychological effect known as cross-modal correspondence. These can be leveraged to enhance saltiness perception and mitigate negative side effects of sodium reduction. Odorants specifically have shown promise for enhancing taste perception. In terms of saltiness, meaty, brothy aromas are considered salt-congruent and have been shown elicit enhancement of salty taste.

When mushrooms are enzymatically hydrolyzed and thermally treated, aroma active compounds are generated that can improve the palatability of reduced sodium foods. The resulting proteins (eHMP) increased perceived saltiness of low-sodium chicken broth, with the enhancement compounded by the addition of cysteine (eHMP + cys). An aroma model was developed to simulate eHMP + cys and demonstrated a similar saltiness enhancing effect to that of eHMP + cys.

The eHMP + cys (mushroom-derived saltiness enhancer; MDSE) was then tested for effectiveness in a beef-mushroom blend meatball. Using hedonic threshold methodology (HTM), samples of varying concentrations of MDSE and salt were rated by panelists to determine the compromised acceptance threshold (CAT). The MDSE enhanced saltiness perception though samples with no MDSE or low levels of MDSE were liked significantly more. Saltiness does not necessarily correspond with increased acceptance in this case, possibly due to an off-flavor at high concentrations of MDSE. HTM resulted in inconsistent CATs between MDSE levels, reflecting a limitation of the procedure in assessing acceptance with multiple variables. Consistent with our previous studies, MDSE is optimized at low concentrations in a complex food matrix.

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