Always fancy a couple of Hobnobs with your morning coffee? Or a stack of doughnuts? Turns out there might be a scientific reason for that – other than the fact a Hobnob goes suitably soft and syrupy when dunked in your mug.
A recent study published by the Cornell Department of Food Science has found a link between consuming caffeine and our taste perception of sweet things.
We have five taste perceptions – sweet, bitter, sour, salty and ‘umami’ – but this study, authored and led by Professor Robin Dando in collaboration with Ezen Choo and Benjamin Picket, has found that caffeine can block, or dull, your sweet-taste perception, leaving you craving something sugary to redress the balance.
“The caffeine, we believe, is causing sweet-taste perception to decrease, so when you are not able to taste the sweetness as well, that may drive one to crave sweets or want to eat a cookie or donut with their coffee,” Choo told The Cornell Daily Sun.
During the study, two sets or participants blindly received two types of coffee – one decaf (but containing a chemical quinine so the coffee had that same bitter caffeinated flavour) and one non-decaf – across two days.
“The people who drank the coffee sample with caffeine perceived it to be less sweet and they also perceived the sweet solutions we gave them following the sample to be less sweet,” Picket said.
So what does this potentially mean for coffee drinkers and biscuit lovers? Dando suggests this study could be an opportunity for people to stop and think before automatically reaching for the cookie jar once their coffee’s been poured – partly because they won’t be able to taste it properly, and partly because it’s likely to leave them craving even more sugar.
“I think it ultimately comes down to mindfulness,” he told The Washington Post, “to being aware that your taste buds may not be the same throughout the day or after certain foods.”
Perhaps we’ll just go for just the one Hobnob in future then, rather than five.