A Test for Measuring Gustatory Function


  • Editor's Note: This Manuscript was accepted for publication March 25, 2008. This work was supported by NIDCD R43 DC007291, R44 DC007291, and a Return of Overhead Research Incentive grant from Temple University. Hetvi Desai and Si Lam are recipients of an undergraduate research award from Temple University. Dr. Hastings is a major shareholder in Osmic Enterprises, which is a manufacturer and distributor of products for measurements of chemosensory function.


Objectives/Hypothesis: The purpose of this study was to determine the usefulness of edible taste strips for measuring human gustatory function.

Study Design: The physical properties of edible taste strips were examined to determine their potential for delivering threshold and suprathreshold amounts of taste stimuli to the oral cavity. Taste strips were then assayed by fluorescence to analyze the uniformity and distribution of bitter tastant in the strips. Finally, taste recognition thresholds for sweet taste were examined to determine whether or not taste strips could detect recognition thresholds that were equal to or better than those obtained from aqueous tests.

Methods: Edible strips were prepared from pullulan-hydroxypropyl methylcellulose solutions that were dried to a thin film. The maximal amount of a tastant that could be incorporated in a 2.54 cm2 taste strip was identified by including representative taste stimuli for each class of tastant (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami) during strip formation. Distribution of the bitter tastant quinine hydrochloride in taste strips was assayed by fluorescence emission spectroscopy. The efficacy of taste strips for evaluating human gustatory function was examined by using a single series ascending method of limits protocol. Sucrose taste recognition threshold data from edible strips was then compared with results that were obtained from a standard “sip and spit” recognition threshold test.

Results: Edible films that formed from a pullulan-hydroxypropyl methylcellulose polymer mixture can be used to prepare clear, thin strips that have essentially no background taste and leave no physical presence after release of tastant. Edible taste strips could uniformly incorporate up to 5% of their composition as tastant. Taste recognition thresholds for sweet taste were over one order of magnitude lower with edible taste strips when compared with an aqueous taste test.

Conclusion: Edible taste strips are a highly sensitive method for examining taste recognition thresholds in humans. This new means of presenting taste stimuli should have widespread applications for examining human taste function in the laboratory, in the clinic, or at remote locations.