Strange Facts About Our Sense of Taste

The sense of taste as one of our five senses. There are taste cells on the sides, front and back of the tongue and the roof of the mouth. These taste buds, also called receptor cells, communicate with the brain by forming bonds with chemicals in the food or beverage being ingested. These stimuli are perceived by our brains as taste. Five basic tastes are detected- bitter, salty, sweet, umami and sour. While you may think that is all to it, some experts have identified several facts about the sense of taste you may find strange.

1. Better In The Air 

One of the key ingredients of a Blood Mary is tomato juice. In 2013, an airline observed that passengers had a craving for tomato juice during flights. In an experiment, it was proven that when on the ground, passengers thought the drink was musty, but when on a simulated flight, passengers thought it was pleasantly fruity. This is a result of our fifth sense sensation- umami. It is thought that the noise level, humidity and cabin pressure on an airplane affects a person’s perception of taste. While participants had difficulty tasting sweet, salty, sour and bitter, in the air, they had no difficulty identifying umami flavors (savory).

2. The Unusual Tasters

Nobody has a palate that is exactly like another person’s, however; the majority of the population belongs to a group that experience the same fundamental tastes and with a similar level of intensity. A small group of people experienced taste in odd ways. Thermal tasters register hot foods as sweet and cold foods as sour. Foods have substantially stronger flavors for supertasters than for regular tasters whereas; nontasters have few taste buds and dislike bland foods. Supertasters are less likely to enjoy alcohol, desserts and green vegetables due to their strong ability to discern minute flavors. Yet, supertasters find salt addictive despite its strong flavor.

3. Expensive Wine Tastes Better

It is believed that the perceived price of wine can influence one’s taste of the wine. The tongue and brain can be fooled. In an experiment, participants who were given cheap wine thinking it was the expensive type said it was refined and rated it highly. Experts have explained that the belief of consuming fine vintage wine is like the placebo effect as it changes the brain’s chemistry. The brain shapes a person’s taste based on what they expect the drink to be worth.

4. The Flavor- Bending Berry

The “miracle berry” is a small red berry from West Africa that has a bland taste, however it makes vinegar taste like a sweet treat. Any acidic or sour food becomes incredibly sweet when consumed with miracle berries. Miraculin, a protein found in the berries, covers the sweet receptors on the tongue for about an hour of eating the berry. When something acidic is placed in the mouth, miraculin picks up protein and transforms. It alters the structure of the sweet receptors it has attached to and causes them to send sweet signals.

5. Virtual Flavors 

Elderly and patients who undergo cancer treatments experience a reduction in their ability to taste. Scientists have developed cutlery that can virtually enhance the flavor of food. They created a cup that can make the flavors of drinks either more or less intense. A smart spoon is another invention, with a button on the handle that can change how sour, bitter and salty the food is. In this technology, flavors are given by zapping taste buds with electrical impulses while eating and drinking.

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