Issue Date: January 10, 2011
Fondue, Fruit Flies, Frustration And Felicity
Cheese fondue is a customary meal at many a holiday party. Now, a research group from the University of Nottingham’s Digestive Diseases Centre, in England, has answered an essential question about the dish: What should people drink with it?
The researchers had 20 adult test subjects eat cheese fondue with one of two traditional SWISS BEVERAGES: black tea or white wine, sometimes with a cherry schnapps digestif (Br. Med. J., DOI: 10.1136/bmj.c6731). The team laced the cheese fondue with 13C-labeled sodium octanoate to measure how quickly the meal was digested—after people metabolize the compound, the proportion of 13CO2 exhaled increases. The scientists monitored 13CO2 levels, alcohol levels in blood, and abdominal symptoms every 10–15 minutes for up to four hours after the meal.
Alcohol slowed digestion significantly, the researchers found. They estimated that subjects’ stomachs would be half empty six hours after fondue with tea, compared with nine hours after fondue and wine. Schnapps also slowed digestion. The test subjects, however, did not report significant differences in their feelings of fullness or indigestion depending on the beverage they consumed, although those who had both wine and schnapps were not keen to eat dessert.
“Healthy readers should be reassured that they can continue to enjoy this traditional meal with the beverage of their choice without undue concern about postprandial digestive comfort,” the researchers conclude.
Whether fruit flies also avoid postprandial discomfort after they belly up to the bar is harder to say. Fruit flies are, however, being used by researchers to screen new SWEETENING INGREDIENTS.
Although the taste systems of humans and fruit flies evolved independently, the two species nonetheless often respond similarly to sweet and bitter flavors, say scientists at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization’s Plant Industry division and the University of Queensland.
The group has developed a bioassay in which flies are allowed access to two solutions containing different sweeteners and colored with either blue or red food dye (J. Agric. Food Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jf102458b). After the flies have dined, the scientists examine them through a microscope to see which solution the sugar-loving insects prefer, as determined by abdomen colors: blue, red, or purple if the flies like both. Comparing the results with those from human taste testers, the researchers found that flies and people tend to like the same disaccharides but are more variable when it comes to trisaccharides.
Although anonymous reviewers of journal manuscripts try to be sweet in their comments, articles sometimes push their goodwill to the bitter limit. A selection of 2010 REFEREE QUOTES from Environmental Microbiology’s year-end issue illustrates both the aggravations and delights of the job (DOI: 10.1111/ j.1462‑2920.2010.02394.x):
■ The lack of negative controls … results in the authors being lost in the funhouse. Unfortunately, I do not think they even realize this.
■ The writing and data presentation are so bad that I had to leave work and go home early and then spend time to wonder what life is about.
■ This paper is desperate. Please reject it completely and then block the author’s email ID so they can’t use the online system in future.
■ It is always a joy to review manuscripts such as this. Well-conceived, well executed, well edited. Clean. Pristine. From start to finish.
■ Reading a well written manuscript before X-mas makes me feel like Santa Claus.
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