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Study: Coffee really does make dessert better

We now know why many people will pair a cup of coffee with their favorite dessert. A new study is lending some scientific credibility to the time-honored tradition of serving coffee after a meal, alongside a sweet treat. Researchers from Aarhus University have found that coffee influences our sense of taste. After a cup of coffee, sweets taste that much sweeter and bitter sensations are not as intense.

Most people don’t need another excuse to indulge in a daily cup (or three) of coffee, but now you have a reason to add some coffee to your dessert regiment.

READ: Are we brewing our coffee wrong?

A total of 156 study participants had their sense of smells and taste tested after drinking a cop of coffee. The coffee didn’t influence their sense of smell at all, but there were noted differences in taste across the board.

“When people were tested after drinking coffee, they became more sensitive to sweetness, and less sensitive to bitterness,” says associate professor at Aarhus University Alexander Wieck Fjældstad in a release.

Caffeine isn’t responsible for this phenomenon either. The research team recreated their experiment using decaf coffee and the relationship between coffee and taste held true.

“It’s probably some of the bitter substances in the coffee that create this effect,” Fjældstad speculates. “This may explain that if you enjoy a piece of dark chocolate with your coffee, it’s taste is much milder, because the bitterness is downplayed and the sweetness is enhanced.”

All in all, the study’s authors say these findings provide some new insight on our senses of smell and taste, and how they operate.

“We already know that our senses have an effect on each other, but it’s a surprise that our registration of sweetness and bitterness is so easily influenced.” Fjældstad says.

The study’s authors also believe these observations have dietary implications.

“More research in this area could have significance for how we regulate the way in which we use sugar and sweeteners as food additives. Improved knowledge can potentially be utilized to reduce sugar and calories in our food, which would be beneficial for a number of groups, including those who are overweight and diabetes patients,” Fjældstad concludes.

The study is published in Foods.

–Wire services