Exposure to sensory food cues such as smell, vision, taste and/or texture may trigger anticipatory physiological responses such as salivation, participating on adequate metabolism of the signaled food. However, the individual contribution of each sensory modality as well as the impact of particular food products on salivation and salivary composition remains unclear. Therefore, by systematically varying sensory modalities and nutrient content of food stimuli, we investigated their effect on saliva secretion, α-amylase activity and other salivary characteristics (pH level, buffering capacity, MUC5B concentration, and total protein content). Over 3 sessions, 46 normal-weight healthy participants were exposed to 12 conditions, consisting of 4 levels of sensory stimulation (odor, odor + vision, odor + vision + taste, and odor + vision + taste + mastication) and 3 types of stimuli (bread, high-in-starch; cucumber, low-in-starch; and parafilm as non-food control) during which saliva was collected. Linear mixed models showed a significant increase in salivation with increasing levels of sensory stimulation. α-amylase secretion rate increased upon the highest level of stimulation, which involved mastication, compared to odor and odor + visual level of stimulation. Other salivary characteristics varied with the level of sensory stimulation, which might be related to the total volume of salivation. The type of stimuli did not influence the saliva composition (α-amylase concentration nor other salivary components). Our findings indicate that cumulative sensory information, rather than specific (food) product, play a vital role in anticipatory salivary responses.
- Cephalic-phase salivary response