[American Society for Nutrition Satellite Symposium Report] Functional and Sensory Roles of Glutamate in Human Foods
Although the appreciation of the unique taste properties of glutamate as the compound responsible for umami has spread in the last years among chefs and food lovers, the role of glutamate as a flavoring agent in foods and its metabolic and molecular actions in the body are not well understood yet among nutritionists and dietitians. Experimental Biology gathers every year scientists from 6 different American professional societies in the same roof, American Association of AAA, American Association of Anatomist, APS, The American Physiological Society, ASMBM, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ASIP, American Society for Investigative Pathology, ASN, American Society for Nutrition, ASPET, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. The UIC sponsored a satellite symposium as part of ASN with the intention to share with specialists scientific advances in the biology of umami taste and the functions of free glutamate. While taste is an important factor for people to accept foods independently of their nutritional or health value, the research fields of taste and nutrition hardly interact professionally with each other. Thus the UIC considered this year's ASN annual meeting as a good opportunity to make the link between the umami taste of glutamate and its relevant physiological signal to the brain. The recent discovery of taste glutamate receptors along the gastrointestinal tract, the established abundance of glutamate in human milk and its function as a major source of energy for the gut epithelial cells were also presented by the different speakers. As the highlight of the symposium, following our tradition in the UIC of teaching umami taste by experience, we had a reception with umami foods for participants and speakers, cherry tomatoes, young and old cheddar cheese, and prosciutto ham. In this occasion, everyone had also a chance to taste how monosodium glutamate enhances saltiness and rounds the taste the vegetable soup we usually make for tasting in the UIC, this time prepared by Chef and CIA lecturer Kyle Connaughton. This is probably the first time in Experimental Biology in which Chefs take active part on a scientific symposium. Connaughton and also CIA Chef and lecturer Ali Bonzari attended the symposium and helped with the discussion of umami among participants too.