As people age they often find that their sense of taste declines and subsequently so does the appeal of food. This puts elderly people, especially those who are already suffering from a loss of appetite due to an illness, at risk of malnutrition.
In order to try and rejuvenate the palate of elderly diners, celebrity chef Blumenthal is working on a project which hopes to improve nutrition on elderly care wards.
The Reading University team has been experimenting with a number of strong flavours and have tried introducing certain flavours from Japanese food into British classics like shepherd’s pie.
Umami is a word used to describe what is known as the fifth taste and it acts as an enhancer for the flavour in foods, especially savoury ones.
Unami taste is caused by the detection of an amino acid which are common in meat, cheese, broth, stock and other protein rich food. The scientists extracted compounds from unami rich foods including mushrooms, seaweed and miso and analysed them in the lab for nutritional value before adding to a mince base which can be used for a variety of recipes.
Lead researcher, Dr Lisa Methven, told the BBC “If you’re an older person who is suffering from a deterioration in taste you don’t get an extra taste bud, whereas you can get a hearing aid or a pair of glasses.”
Dr Methven hopes that the project can develop foods that older people can get more please from in order to combat malnutrition.
The prototype menu has been tested by a special panel of tasters aged between 65 and 85.
Heston Blumenthal said he was happy to be involved in the project and hopes these developments will help patients to look forward to mealtimes in hospitals. He also said, “Umami is a great way to rejuvenate the dining environment in hospital and improve the flavour in the mouth.”
The three-year project is being supported by the charity Research into Ageing.
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