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Defining the end‐point of mastication: A conceptual model

Gray‐Stuart, Eli M., Jones, Jim R., Bronlund, John E.
Journal of texture studies 2017 v.48 no.5 pp. 345-356
central nervous system, decision making, deglutition, digestion, dysphagia, engineering, food quality, foods, hazard characterization, humans, lungs, mastication, mechanics, models, mouth, risk, robots, sensation, sensory evaluation, texture
The great risks of swallowing are choking and aspiration of food into the lungs. Both are rare in normal functioning humans, which is remarkable given the diversity of foods and the estimated 10 million swallows performed in a lifetime. Nevertheless, it remains a major challenge to define the food properties that are necessary to ensure a safe swallow. Here, the mouth is viewed as a well‐controlled processor where mechanical sensory assessment occurs throughout the occlusion‐circulation cycle of mastication. Swallowing is a subsequent action. It is proposed here that, during mastication, temporal maps of interfacial property data are generated, which the central nervous system compares against a series of criteria in order to be sure that the bolus is safe to swallow. To determine these criteria, an engineering hazard analysis tool, alongside an understanding of fluid and particle mechanics, is used to deduce the mechanisms by which food may deposit or become stranded during swallowing. These mechanisms define the food properties that must be avoided. By inverting the thinking, from hazards to ensuring safety, six criteria arise which are necessary for a safe‐to‐swallow bolus. A new conceptual model is proposed to define when food is safe to swallow during mastication. This significantly advances earlier mouth models. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: The conceptual model proposed in this work provides a framework of decision‐making to define when food is safe to swallow. This will be of interest to designers of dietary foods, foods for dysphagia sufferers and will aid the further development of mastication robots for preparation of artificial boluses for digestion research. It enables food designers to influence the swallow‐point properties of their products. For example, a product may be designed to satisfy five of the criteria for a safe‐to‐swallow bolus, which means the sixth criterion and its attendant food properties define the swallow‐point. Alongside other organoleptic factors, these properties define the end‐point texture and enduring sensory perception of the food.