Testing the Food Experience in Healthy Human Volunteers: a Proof-of-Concept Study
Background and Aims: For a healthy food to be introduced to the consumer’s diet, it has to be attractive, yet testing for food acceptance and the sensory postprandial responses is still not standardized. The main objective of this study was to demonstrate that healthier foods can be obtained without impact on the responses to ingestion.
Methods: A randomized, cross-over, double-blind, pilot study in non-obese, healthy men (n=8) comparing the responses to a standard sausage rich in animal fat (mortadella) versus a modified product based on a plant-derived fat analogue and an aroma. Palatability and postprandial sensations were measured on 10 cm scales and brain activity was evaluated by functional magnetic resonance imaging before and after each meal on separate days.
Results: Both meals were rated equally palatable and induced the same degree of homeostatic sensations (satiety, fullness) with a similar hedonic dimension (improved mood and digestive well-being). Both meals induced similar changes in brain connectivity: decreased activity in the frontal-parietal, basal ganglia and thalamus, visual occipital, sensory-motor, temporal superior and in the “default-mode” networks, while increased activity was detected in the network associated with white matter.
Conclusion: A substantial improvement in the nutritional profile of food can be achieved without affecting the responses to ingestion.