An exciting new issue of Cell: The Biology of Food

Hey there! The last year or so has been a busy time for us, with a lot of degree-earning and job-switching. We’ll tell you more about that later because right now we want to break the ice with a post about Cell, the scientific journal which just released a special issue on the Biology of Food.

So, what so cool about this biology of food, besides the alienesque picture of an apple on the cover? This article is filled with great articles, reflections, and experiments by some of the world’s leading food scientists, and comes right on the heels of the journal’s recent collaboration with Top Chef (anything sound familiar there?).

Find more about the contents of the issue, or even listen to a podcast from Michael Brenner. If you hurry, you can download a few of the articles from Cell for free. We thought we’d share some of the tidbits that caught our fancy and may inspire some upcoming experiments.

1. How something looks, feels, and tastes affect flavor.

We may have taste buds on our tongue, but a lot more than just those taste buds affect what our brain sees as the flavor of the dish. The avid reader might remember some of our posts on eating a smell or how color affects flavor:

“Charles Spence’s article in Cell examines those senses and more, including ones you wouldn’t expect to affect flavor like hearing or touch (or mouthfeel). For a drastic example, Dr. Spence notes in his article that the strawberry dessert served on a white plate was “significantly sweeter and more flavorful” than the same dessert served on a black plate. “

2. Differences in cooking temperature of even 1o can drastically affect how an egg turns out.

This would certainly explain some of Judit Pungor’s experiments on scrambled eggs. Michael Brenner explains that this occurs because of cellular-level interactions between temperature and protein folding.  The eggs come out quite different over a small temperature range, as Dr. Brenner illustrated in this image borrowed from Modernist Cuisine. You can further study the effect of the research biology of food while you read our article on the Best macaroni and cheese.

3. Meal timing affects our circadian rhythm – Biology of Food

Sure, we’ve all heard of jet lag, but what of food lag? When you eat (and how much you eat at that time) can have drastic consequences for your circadian rhythm, as Gad Asher and Paolo Sassone-Corsi describe in their article. More information can be found in the article, “Food, Brain, and Us – Review“.

You can rewrite some of your cellular circadian rhythms by when you eat, and your body’s natural rhythm can affect how much weight you gain when you eat at different times in the day. Even the bacteria in your gut follow circadian rhythms! Does anyone want to see how groggy they become when they try to eat meals in a different time zone?

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