Home Health Drinking water thinking it is something else: when the sense of smell deceives the brain

Drinking water thinking it is something else: when the sense of smell deceives the brain

by admin

We could define it as a deception for a good purpose. Thanks to which to delude the brain that we are sipping a fruit-flavored drink, lime or cola, while the one we are drinking is plain water. Without any kind of added flavor, without additives, without sugars. What makes this sensory deception possible is Air Up, a particular bottle (but at the same time very simple, as it should be with the best design) that arrived in Italy in recent weeks and behind which there are five Germans under thirty, at the top of a start-up that last year was ranked among the 25 fastest growing in Germany, and in 2021 among the ten most innovative small businesses in the country.

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The idea consists in exploiting a known fact in terms of well-being and sustainability (in this sense, if it was not the discovery of hot water, it is probably the good one): that is, that 80% of what we call taste is actually determined by aromas perceived at the olfactory level. An already known evidence, in fact, but so far no one had thought of exploiting by creating a product of this type. Instead, in 2016 the 24-year-old Lena Jüngst with her then fellow student and future partner Tim Jäger tried it, developing a doctoral thesis in Product Design with a spin off in Neuroscience. Together they have what, given the results, can in effect be defined as lighting. That is, starting from the role of smell to propose a solution to the excessive consumption of sugary drinks, especially by the younger generations (with the consequences that we know at an individual level – in terms of overweight, lifestyle and predisposition to diabetes and diseases coronary – and at environmental level due to the impact of the plastics to be disposed of).

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In summary, a rigid straw with a diameter just wider than the standard ones is inserted at the mouth of the bottle, around which pods are inserted which – here is the point – do not release anything into the water. Conversely, they release aromas of totally natural origin into the air (steam extracted from fruit and vegetables) capable of reaching the retronasal receptors and deceiving the brain in real time, making it perceive a flavor that is not there.

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Said this way, one wonders why it hadn’t been there before. But that this is a revolution is shown by the fact that last year the start-up achieved a turnover of over 20 million euros, and the capital has grown in the last few months by another 40 million thanks to giant investors including Five Seasons Ventures. (the fund specializing in foodtech) and PepsiCo. Yet Lena Jüngst, co-founder and today Chief Content Officer of Air Up, is a big girl with a sporty air who still enthusiastically admits her amazement for a success that went far beyond the initial awareness of having an idea full of potential. Because unlike the saying, drinking a glass of water today is anything but a simple gesture, and is less and less common among the new generations. This leads on the one hand to taking in less liquids than necessary, on the other to introducing them loaded with useless and often harmful substances.

“Less than two years have passed since we started to focus on the idea, during the doctorate at the University of Schwäbisch Gmünd, to when the University of Munich gave us the scholarship that allowed us to develop the start. up. At the beginning of 2019 we passed from prototypes to actual production, and today we have 170 employees, from the 5 we were at the time of the actual foundation (when the project became concrete, three more students and friends joined, bringing skills of specializations in food technology and business economics, and in one case a previous experience with other beverage start-ups, ed.) But the main satisfactions honestly lie in the contribution we are making to improving the lifestyle of many These are estimates, of course, but our current one million consumers, and the approximately 85 million liters of water already consumed with our pods can also be measured as 2,465 tons of sugar consumed less, in addition to millions of plastic bottles that must not be disposed of “.

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To better explain how it works, the pods that attach to the Air Up bottles (which are 650ml in capacity, but each pod should remain effective up to almost 5 liters of water used) resemble coffee pods, with a hole in the donut-like center through which the straw passes. When drinking, the pod uses the pressure of the spout to release its molecules into the air, which reach the retronasal olfactory cells and are coded as flavor by our brain.

“It’s a bit like walking next to a pastry shop” continues Lena “and in addition to the technical realization, the most successful aspect of our project was in fact being able to calibrate the aromas, creating olfactory balances that combined the reality of a attractive product in its consumption phase, but also sustainable from all points of view. In the course of human evolution the equivalence good taste = healthy food (and vice versa bad equal harmful) which originally helped to identify foods has disappeared Gradually, society has become accustomed to identifying more and more sophisticated foods and drinks as good, with the result that recent generations consider mainly unhealthy foods and drinks as desirable. en route “.


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