Fooled by savouriness? Investigating the relationship between savoury taste and protein content in familiar foods

Charlotte M. Buckley*, Bobby G. Stuijfzand, Peter J. Rogers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
249 Downloads (Pure)


Selecting savoury foods after consuming a protein depleted diet has been suggested to reflect protein seeking behaviour. The modern diet contains a large number of processed foods, many of which are highly savoury to taste, but not necessarily high in protein. The present two studies aimed to investigate the relationship between savoury taste and protein content (actual and participant estimated). Participants (S1 n = 20, S2 n = 37) completed 100 mm VAS ratings of sensory and nutritional qualities of 18 familiar foods, categorised as sweet low protein, savoury low protein and savoury high protein. In study 2, the individual foods were blended to a fine consistency to disguise their identity and ensure ratings were based primarily on taste. Multilevel linear regression was used to test associations between savoury taste and actual protein content. Protein content did not predict savoury taste rating, irrespective of category. The results also indicated that participants were generally accurate at estimating the protein content of foods, although there was a tendency towards overestimation. The magnitude of this error was increased in low protein savoury foods. Specifically, there was a shift in the spread of estimation scores which showed a greater level of overestimation in some blended compared to unblended foods, and predominantly in savoury foods which participants could not identify. These results provide evidence that savoury taste and protein content are not well linked in the current food environment, but taste may guide nutrient estimations about certain unidentified foods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-36
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Early online date10 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

Structured keywords

  • Jean Golding
  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Nutrition and Behaviour
  • Physical and Mental Health


  • Protein
  • Savouriness
  • Taste-nutrient relationships
  • Umami


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