Olfactory food cues can induce appetite for similar food products in humans. Odors may thus signal essential information about a foods’ composition such as taste or even macronutrient content and may stimulate specific physiological responses in anticipation of food intake. Several studies have shown that sensory food cues could stimulate saliva secretion. However, potential differences between food odors in their effect on saliva secretion, or the effects of olfactory stimulation on changes in saliva composition remain to be elucidated. To gain more insight, we conducted two studies to determine the influence of various odors, representing different taste qualities (study 1) and macronutrients (study 2), on salivary biomarkers. In study 1, 36 participants were randomly exposed to no-odor, non-food, and odors signaling sweet, savory, and sour taste. In study 2, 60 participants were randomly exposed to no-odor, non-food, and odors signaling carbohydrates, protein, fat, and low-calorie food. For each condition, whole-mouth saliva was collected and saliva secretion rate determined. Furthermore, we determined mouth-watering perception (subjective salivation), visco-elasticity (study 1 only), mucin concentration, α-amylase and lingual lipase activity (study 2 only). For both studies, linear mixed model analyses showed that saliva secretion rate significantly increased by food odor exposure compared to no-odor and non-food conditions. However, no changes in salivary composition were observed. These findings indicate that food odors play a crucial role in anticipatory saliva responses and can thereby affect subsequent eating behavior.
- Cephalic phase response
- Salivary protein