Hey you butt parties, check this out: a study published in the journal Chemical Senses suggests that there may be a sixth taste in addition to the five basic ones we all know (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami). What taste is it? Starch.
The study, run by Dr. Juyun Lim from OSU, involved approximately 100 participants across five different studies. The participants were asked to taste liquid solutions of carbohydrates—some simple (like sugar) and some complex—both under normal conditions and when the sweet receptors in their mouths were blocked. Even with the receptors blocked, the participants stated that they could still detect a starchy taste, which goes against previous assumptions that starch was tasteless.
Dr. Lim says that the result is not necessarily surprising; since humans use starch as a major source of energy, it makes sense that humans could be able to detect its presence by taste. If nothing else, the findings demonstrate that the way humans taste is actually more complex than previously thought. The way the participants tasted the starch, says Dr. Lim, was by tasting the saliva-destroyed version of the starch: glucose oligomers. While it was previously suggested that humans could only taste the simple sugars class of carbohydrates, the fact that participants could actually describe the taste of the glucose oligomers suggests that our tasting of carbs is more complicated than we think.
Others are a bit wary of classifying this as a new separate taste, suggesting that it might just be another “version” of the sweet taste. More research will be done on determining the exact mechanism of how the glucose oligomers are actually tasted.
Losing your sense of smell != losing your sense of taste. There’s a reason scientists/biologists have classified smell and taste as two different senses.
TASTE is what our taste buds give us. It refers to the five basic receptors in the mouth: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. You could rip out our olfactory bulbs and we’d still “taste” food. Taste is physically different than smell. It is the result of our tongues receiving chemical information, and we can basically get five pieces of information (the five tastes) about food from taste.
FLAVOR is everything else: it is the combination of every other sensory input that we experience when consuming food. Visual appearance, atmosphere, lighting, sound, music, texture, mouth-feel—and smell. Smell is obviously the big one here. While it too is chemical, smells can give us vastly more information about food than taste can, especially when combined with other environmental factors (sound, texture, and whatnot) and the fact that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory.
So while anosmics can most certainly taste food (or much of it, at least; garlic does absolutely nothing for me and onions are crunchy and nothing else), they miss out on the huge flavor component that smell provides.
Now that I think about it, I might guess that that’s the reason why a lot of acquired anosmics tend to claim that they’ve lost their sense of taste entirely as well—because they’re so used to experiencing food WITH that added flavor component from smell, once they lose that they’re reduced to just “tasting” food, which is likely exceedingly bland in comparison. Whereas the congenital anosmic—like me—has never experienced the extra flavor from smell and thus doesn’t “know” of the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences that smell can create. Therefore, for them, most foods are still very distinguishable from one another.
The next article I read that says “anosmics can’t tell the difference between a raw potato and an apple,” I’mma start stabbing fellows.
Quick—of the four (or five, or seven) basic tastes, which one is the one confounding scientists regarding how it works?
Scientists have traced the tastes of sweetness, umami, and bitter to specific receptors on the cells of the tongue, and are close to finding the receptor for sour. How we perceive saltiness, however, still remains elusive. Scientists believe the trouble stems from the fact that humans are so sensitive to sodium: we need it to function, but too much will kill us.
Because we need sodium in pretty much every important bodily function, from nerve firing to blood pressure control to cell water saturation control, molecules that are sensitive to sodium are embedded in cell membranes all over the body.
Why is this a problem? Because the process for locating the other taste receptors involved finding a likely gene for the receptor, destroying it in mice embryos, and testing whether the mice could still experience the taste. If the genes for salt reception are destroyed, the mice won’t live long enough to even be born.
To get around this, two research groups worked to develop a drug method of temporarily blocking a certain type of sodium channel in the mice’s mouths.
So what did they find out when they did this? When the treated animals were deprived of salt, they were unable to distinguish between salty and plain water. This is what they expected if the blocked sodium channel, ENaC, was required to taste salt.
But they found something surprising. Even when the ENaC was blocked, the nerve that carries salty sensations from the tongue to the brain was still showing some activity. They also found that the ENaC-less mice didn’t actively seek out salt and avoided water with very high concentrations of it. So even though they couldn’t taste the salt, the drug treated mice avoided bowls of salty water like normal mice.
This suggested to the researchers that our perception of salt involves two different mechanisms: one involving something that makes salt attractive/tasty, and another that makes high concentrations of it something to avoid. This makes sense biologically: lack of salt can kill us, as can too much salt.
So the search is currently on for the second receptor, the one that makes us reject salt. Come on, taste scientists, you can do it!
“Sensonics, Inc. provides the medical, scientific and industrial communities with the best smell and taste tests for assessing chemosensory function.”
I’d love to try their Sniff Magnitude Test to see if anything’s actually registering and I just can’t tell, but there’s no way I can drop $6,000 on…well, anything right now, haha. I’d also like to see what the TR-06 Rion Electrogustometer is all about. I know my nose is shot…how screwy is my taste?
From the site: “The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation is dedicated to advancing research and knowledge on the effects of smell and taste on human emotion, mood, behavior and disease states.”
Just have a look around, especially at their research studies. Pretty cool stuff.
I wish I could smell, man. That’s another reason why I want to try out the 23andMe DNA thingy…they have an odor detection test of which I’d like to see my results. I’d just like to know at what level my sense is missing. Genetic issue? Brain structure issue? Olfactory bulb issues? “Olfactory bulb to brain” link issue? Something else?
Ah, the mysteries of life!
Maybe I’m meant to work at a dump or a skunk breeding farm or something.
So I’m a supertaster, apparently.
I have more tastebuds on my tongue than normal people, and therefore have a more intense response to bitter things (this is very true in my case, and this explains why I dislike like coffee, olives, and soy crap (I hate soy crap).
But I wonder…does this explain why I can taste “normally” with my lack of sense of smell? Do they kinda cancel each other out in some twisted way?
I dunno. Screw it. I dunno.
I hate soy crap.