COVENTRY scientists have tested out ground-breaking technology to produce virtual flavours of Marmite and Vegemite from scratch as part of a study which could lead to a much earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, well before any memory loss sets in.
Prof Alan Chalmers from the University of Warwick has created the virtual flavours and can, through taking samples of a food and analysing it, accurately simulate a real flavour by extracting its tastes, aromas, and mouthfeel.
Once analysed by high-tech food firm New-Food Innovation, the virtual flavours are created to accurately match the real flavour using UK Food Standards Agency-approved food-safe chemicals.
The study is part of Professor Chalmers’ research into how people perceive taste and smell.
He is also investigating whether poor performance on the new ‘taste test’ he has developed might be an early warning sign for diseases including dementia.
Prof Chalmers said the flavour-making process was the same as using a recipe.
By accurately simulating the different components of a flavour, food such as marmite can be replicated with a taste indistinguishable from the real thing.
He said: “We recreated the health drink rooibos tea and even the chief taster of a rooibos manufacturer in South Africa could not distinguish between the real and virtual rooibos.
“I first thought of creating the samples of marmite and vegemite for a bit of fun during the Ashes cricket tests this summer as people kept asking – what is the difference between them?
“It goes back to the serious work we’re doing which shows that people’s taste and smell can give us clues about what’s going on in a person’s brain years before symptoms such as memory loss start”.