Exploring short term effect of Bitters on cardiovascular and cerebral functions

Bitter tastants are used in both herbal and conventional medicine to treat digestive disorders, and they form the basis of most aperitif drinks used to stimulate appetite. However, no pharmacological mechanism has been identified which can account for their actions. We are investigating the potential chemosensory stimulation of the recently identified bitter taste receptors (hTAS2Rs) as a possible mechanism of action.

In a randomised double-blinded procedure normal participants will be tested by either ingesting or ‘sip and spitting’ various combinations of tastants (Gentian lutea L. and Artemisia absinthium L.) and control substances. Single beat-to-beat cardiovascular recordings together with EEG will be investigated over a 15 minute period including a 5 min baseline phase. In line with our previous work using caffeine (also a bitter), we hope to demonstrate short terms effects of these bitters on cardiovascular functions and correlate these with changes in cerebral function as measured by the EEG.

Project team: Michael K McMullen: Life Force, Sweden; Julie M Whitehouse: Division of Complementary Therapies, University of Westminster, UK; Tony Towell: Department of Psychology, University of Westminster, UK

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