Impact of trehalose on the activity of sodium and potassium chloride in aqueous solutions: Why trehalose is worth its salt

Michal Poplinger, Ilan Shumilin, Daniel Harries*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Trehalose is revered for its multiple unique impacts on solution properties, including the ability to modulate the salty and bitter tastes of sodium and potassium salts. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying trehalose's effect on taste perception are unknown. Here we focus on the physico-chemical effect of trehalose to alter the activity of monovalent salts in aqueous solution. Using a modified isopiestic methodology that relies on contemporary vapor pressure osmometry, we elucidate how trehalose modifies the thermodynamic chemical activity of sodium and potassium chloride, as well as the effect of the salts on the sugar's activity. We find that trehalose has a specific impact on potassium chloride that is unlike that of other sugars or polyols. Remarkably, especially at low salt concentrations, trehalose considerably elevates the activity (or chemical potential) of KCl, raising the salt activity coefficient as high as ∼1.5 its value in the absence of the sugar. Moreover, in contrast to their action on other known carbohydrates, both KCl and NaCl act as salting-out agents towards trehalose, as seen in the elevated activity coefficient compared with its value in pure water (up to ∼1.5 higher at low sugar and salt concentrations). We discuss the possible relevance of our findings to the mechanism of trehalose taste perception modification, and point to necessary future directed sensory experiments needed to resolve the possible link between our findings and the emerging biochemical or physiological mechanisms involved.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1209-1215
Number of pages7
JournalFood Chemistry
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Activity coefficients
  • KCl
  • NaCl
  • Preferential interactions
  • Taste perception modification
  • Trehalose
  • Vapor pressure osmometry


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