Salivary protein levels as a predictor of perceived astringency in model systems and solid foods

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Salivary protein difference value (SP D-value) is a quantitative measure of salivary protein replenishment, which reportedly relates to individual differences in perceived astringency. This in vitro measure is calculated as the difference in total salivary protein before (S1) and after (S2) stimulation with tannic acid, with a greater absolute value (S2-S1) indicating less protein replenishment. Others report that this measure predicts perceived astringency and liking of liquid model systems and beverages containing added polyphenols. Whether this relationship generalizes to astringent compounds other than polyphenols, or to solid foods is unknown. Here, the associations between SP D-values and perceived astringency and overall liking/disliking for alum and tannic acid (experiment 1) as well as solid chocolate-flavored compound coating with added tannic acid or grape seed extract (GSE) (experiment 2) were examined. In both experiments, participants (n = 84 and 81, respectively) indicated perceived intensity of astringency, bitterness, sweetness, and sourness, and degree of liking of either aqueous solutions, or solid chocolate-flavored compound coating with added astringents. Data were analyzed via linear regression, and as discrete groups for comparison to prior work. Three discrete groups were formed based on first and third quartile splits of the SP D-value distribution: low (LR), medium (MR), and high responding (HR) individuals. In experiment 1, significantly higher mean astringency ratings were observed for the HR as compared to the LR/MR groups for alum and tannic acid, confirming and extending prior work. In experiment 2, significantly higher mean astringency ratings were also observed for HR as compared to LR groups in solid chocolate-flavored compound containing added tannic acid or GSE. Significant differences in liking were found between HR and LR groups for alum and tannic acid in water, but no significant differences in liking were observed for chocolate-flavored compound samples. A significant linear relationship between SP D-values and perceived astringency was observed for both alum and tannic acid (p's < 0.001), although the variance explained was relatively low (R2 = 0.33 and 0.29, respectively). In the solid chocolate-flavored compound spiked with either tannic acid or GSE, the relationship was not significant (p = 0.17 and 0.30; R2 = 0.03 and 0.02, respectively). Due to the weak associations overall, and the lack of significant differences in perception of astringency between the MR and LR groups, we conclude that SP D-values are not a strong predictor of astringency, especially in solid, high-fat foods. Additional research investigating alternative methods for quantifying individual differences in astringency, as well as exploring the underlying complexities of this percept appears warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-63
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2016


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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