In most cultures, people ingest a variety of astringent foods and beverages during meals, but the reasons for this practice are unclear. Many popular beliefs and heuristics, such as high tannin wines should be balanced with fatty foods, for example 'red wine with red meat', suggest that astringents such as pickles, sorbets, wines, and teas 'cleanse' the palate while eating. Oral astringents elicit 'dry, rough' sensations , in part, by breaking down mucinous lubricating proteins in saliva [2,3]. The introduction of oral lubricants, including fats, partially diminishes strong astringent sensations [4,5]. Thus, it appears that astringency and fattiness can oppose each other perceptually on an oral rheological spectrum. Most teas, wines, and 'palate cleansers', however, are only mildly astringent and an explanation of how they could oppose the fattiness of meals is lacking. Here, we demonstrate that weakly astringent stimuli can elicit strong sensations after repeated sampling. Astringency builds with exposures  to an asymptotic level determined by the structure and concentration of the compound. We also establish that multiple sips of a mild astringent solution, similar to a wine or tea, decrease oral fat sensations elicited by fatty food consumption when astringent and fatty stimuli alternate, mimicking the patterning that occurs during a real meal. Consequently, we reveal a principle underlying the international practice of 'palate cleansing'. Repeatedly alternating samples of astringent beverages with fatty foods yielded ratings of fattiness and astringency that were lower than if rinsing with water or if presented alone without alternation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)