According to the scientists from Cornell University, the reason was revealed why the plane food looses its flavour.
Pressurized, dry, crowded and noisy, the cabin environment is an assault on the senses, and one in-flight element in particular appears to have a direct impact on taste. To find out the reason for the bad taste of plane food, Cornell researchers Robin Dando and Kimberly Yan had volunteers sip a variety of taste solutions. Participants first sipped the solutions that are bitter, salty, sour, sweet and savory/umami in complete silence and rated the taste’s intensity. The same participants then sipped the same solutions while wearing headphones playing the 80-plus decibel noise associated with cabin conditions.
After sampling the five basic tastes in an in-flight atmosphere, volunteers reported no change in bitter, salty or sour intensities. However, the intensity of the sweet solution decreased in this environment while umami’s intensity increased. Both Umami and sweet receptors share a common gene and stimulate similar patterns of brain activity, but the reason why noise affects these two tastes so differently.
The study suggests that meals with more umami elements, such as cheese, fish, soy sauce, mushrooms or tomatoes, can stand up to harsh cabin conditions. Dando and Yan have suggested that there is a physiological reason as to why cabin noise affects passenger’s sense of taste. They believe it’s all to do with an individual’s chorda tympani nerve, which is located in the middle ear and helps relay taste impulses from the tongue to the brain. According to their findings, these impulses may literally be rattled by loud noises, thereby distorting normal taste perceptions and making certain foods more pleasant in cabin conditions.
“The multisensory nature of what we consider ‘flavour’ is undoubtedly underpinned by complex central and peripheral interactions,” said Dando.
”Our results characterise a novel sensory interaction, with intriguing implications for the effect of the environment in which we consume food.”