Issue Date: December 15, 2008
Briny Food Textures
Salt doesn't impact just the flavor of foods, it also influences foods' texture. Now, a molecular dynamics simulation study suggests how a small concentration of salt alters the secondary structure of proteins that affect the texture of foods such as mayonnaise, salad dressing, and yogurt (Chem. Commun., DOI: 10.1039/b816055d). Jonathan M. Goodman of the Unilever Centre for Molecular Science Informatics at the University of Cambridge and colleagues observed that poly-L-glutamate switches from a coil conformation to a compressed helix in only 0.3 M NaCl solutions. The polypeptide chain takes on an extended conformation when the simulation is run in pure water because the negatively charged side chains repel each other, the researchers note. But the presence of salt helps stabilize the side chains' negative charges, permitting the side chains to be closer together in the helical form. Salt may play a large role in how proteins in foods feel in one's mouth, Goodman says. "The salt effect on food texture is something every college student boiling instant noodles in water should know about," he adds.
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