Food oral processing in humans: links between physiological parameters, release of flavour stimuli and flavour perception of food

Gilles Feron, Christian Salles


In humans, food oral processing (FOP) is the first step in the digestive process. It prepares the food for swallowing and to undergo the process of digestion. During chewing, the food is comminuted by the combined action of chewing and saliva to form a bolus. The particle size of the bolus is reduced due to the action of the tongue and the teeth, and the saliva is continuously produced by the salivary glands to humidify and impregnate the food. Saliva lubricates the bolus and enables the cohesion of particles to prepare for swallowing. During food oral processing, the compounds responsible for food flavour and taste are released, leading to the perception of food organoleptic properties and significantly contributing to the consumer’s acceptability of the product. Understanding this process of food breakdown and bolus formation thus appears to be a way to revisit food functional properties. However, this process is extremely complex, and as such, its description necessitates a combination of many quantities from different disciplines, i.e., physics, chemistry, physiology, psychology, behavioural science and food science. It depends, on one hand, on food properties and on the other hand, it depends on oral physiology. However, large inter-individual variability is commonly observed, which has important consequences on flavour release and perception. The challenge for the food industry is to be able to develop food considering this large variability, and sensory and nutritional constraints. This challenge is particularly relevant when specific populations (i.e., elderly, infants or obese subjects) are considered.


mastication; saliva; food bolus; aroma; taste

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