Food neophobia (FN), defined as the reluctance to eat unfamiliar foods, is a multidimensional phenomenon that may lead to poor dietary variety and nutritional deficiencies[1,2]. In adults, literature suggests that the pathways driving neophobics’ eating behaviors may be driven by a global higher arousal responsiveness toward foods rather than a higher chemosensory responsiveness. Surprisingly, most of evidence supporting this statement addressed the issue from an oro-sensory perspective while much less is known about the orthonasal and the retronasal contribution behind this phenomenon. Thus, as part of a broader investigation aiming to evaluate the Italian olfactory function, this contribution aimed at assessing the associations between olfactory function, retronasal aroma release and FN.
83 subjects (57.8 % female, aged 22-68 yo), completed a validated Italian version of the Food Neophobia Scale (FNS) and underwent the olfactometric assessment (olfactory threshold, odor discrimination and identification) through the Sniffin’ Sticks Test battery. Later, each subject was asked to consume at least three replicates of a strawberry jelly candy following a fixed chewing protocol supported by a video tool. Simultaneously, nose-space analysis with Selected-Ion Flow-Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS) was carried out monitoring in real time 7 different aroma compounds.
According to , we identified 35 Low-Neophobics (LN), 29 Medium-Neophobics (MN) and 19 High-Neophobics (HN) in our cohort. Overall, higher FN levels were associated with lower olfactory thresholds (i.e higher odor sensitivity) and lower discrimination abilities. LN and MN showed higher aroma release compared to HN probably due to longer oral processing. No age, gender or BMI effect was observed.
Overall, this study suggests that the eating behaviors leading neophobics’ approach to food may underlie higher levels of arousal toward foods rather than superior chemosensory functions.
1- Laureati M et al. (2018). Food Qual Pref (68): 113:124
2- Demattè L et al. (2014). Front Psychol 5: 127
3- Masala C et al. (2019). Chem Senses 44 (7): E47-E47
4- Hummel T et al. (1997). Chem Senses. 22(1):39-52