Heston gives taste to hospital meals
TV chef Heston Blumenthal appears to have found the key ingredient to give elderly hospital patients an appetite.
Working with food scientists at the University of Reading, the bespectacled kitchen guru discovered ingredients rich in the fifth basic taste, umami, makes food more appealing.
In a trial with 31 elderly patients his enhanced meals were a clear winner over regular hospital dishes.
A dash of Worcester sauce, soy or ketchup may be enough, the work shows.
The enhanced recipe put to the test was Heston's cottage pie.
Patients were asked to eat as much or as little of it as they wanted. They were also offered a standard cottage pie for comparison but were not told which of the two dishes was Heston's.
Overall, the patients rated the TV chef's meal as far tastier, the journal Nutrition and Aging reports.
They also ate more of it, but more trials are needed to see whether Heston's recipes will prevent malnutrition by getting patients to eat more.
Around one in three people admitted to hospital or care homes in the UK are found to be malnourished or at risk of malnourishment.
Flavour in foods, especially savoury ones, is enhanced by umami - known as the fifth taste, and also the Japanese word for delicious and savoury.
The umami taste is due to the detection of an amino acid common in meat, cheese, broth, stock, and other protein-rich foods.
The other four tastes are salt, sour, sweet and bitter.