Polyphenols: factors influencing their sensory properties and their effects on food and beverage preferences

Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1 Suppl):330S-335S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/81.1.330S.


Bitterness and astringency are found in a variety of foods, including nuts, fruits, chocolate, tea, wine, and soymilk. In fruits and beverages, the taste of bitterness and the tactile sensation of astringency are elicited primarily by flavanol polymers (proanthocyanidins or condensed tannins). Variations in proanthocyanidin composition, such as polymer size, extent of galloylation, and formation of derivatives, affect both bitterness and astringency. In beverages, other factors also influence these sensations, including the pH and the levels of ethanol, sweetness, and viscosity. Similarly, foods eaten with beverages can influence astringency. For example, eating dark chocolate increases the astringency of red wine more than does milk chocolate. Individuals perceive astringency differently because of variations in salivary flow rates, and preferences for and acceptance of a product may vary tremendously among individuals; decreasing bitterness and/or astringency may not increase preference. Factors influencing bitterness, astringency, and individual preference decisions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Behavior
  • Flavonoids / adverse effects*
  • Food-Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Phenols / adverse effects*
  • Polyphenols
  • Taste / drug effects*
  • Thiourea / pharmacology
  • Wine*


  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Polyphenols
  • Thiourea