Salt, sugar and saturated fat
Around 80 per cent of our daily diet is made up of foods that are processed to some degree. Eating too many foods that are high in salt, sugar and saturated fat is leading to a rise in diet-related diseases in many countries, including Australia.
In polite company, we can’t see inside someone’s mouth while they’re eating. This means, up until now, it has not been possible to view how the chewing process alters food.
The science of chewing
Using a cutting-edge technique called smooth particle hydrodynamics, we’ve developed a virtual mouth built on real data about the physics of chewing. It predicts how a particular food breaks down and how flavour is released in the mouth. It also shows the distribution and interaction of components such as salt, sugar and fat.
Through this technology, we can view and analyse how food at the microscopic level works in the mouth, and how it influences our taste perception.
Developing healthier processed foods
Our 3D mastication modelling is starting to provide researchers with new understanding of how to reduce salt, sugar and fat in food products, as well as how to incorporate more fibre and nutrients, and even how to create new food sensations.
This new data and understanding is helping to develop foods lower in salt, sugar and fat without changing the taste. The benefits for the food industry could be significant.
The technology can give food and ingredient manufacturers the ability not only to model the breakdown of a complex food product, but also the individual components. It can also model the costs of making changes to a product, and then calculate the cost benefit. This will save time and money, compared to using the traditional ‘cook and look’ approach that is often needed to make changes to food products.
Our research should also help create new taste sensations that could find their way into new foods on our supermarket shelves.