What is Taste?
Taste, or gustation, involves the detection of flavors by taste buds. It's a sensory function of the central nervous system. Did you know humans have about 10,000 taste buds, renewing every 2 weeks?
Five Basic Tastes
Traditionally, we recognize five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. Umami, discovered in the early 20th century, refers to the savory taste of amino acids.
Taste vs. Flavor
Flavor is a multisensory experience. It combines taste, smell, and somatosensory sensations, like texture and temperature. A strawberry's flavor changes if you pinch your nose while eating it!
Taste Bud Anatomy
Each taste bud contains 50-100 specialized sensory cells, which are replaced every 1-2 weeks. Surprisingly, taste buds are not just on the tongue, but also on the roof of the mouth and esophagus.
Genetics of Taste
Genetics affect how we perceive taste. For instance, 'supertasters' have more taste buds and are particularly sensitive to bitterness. About 25% of the population are considered supertasters.
Taste and Health
Taste preferences can influence nutrition and health. For example, some bitter compounds are indicators of toxins. Our aversion to bitterness is a defense mechanism. However, some bitter foods like kale are healthful.
Taste Perception Changes
Did you know your taste perception changes throughout your life? Children are more sensitive to sweet tastes, which may explain their preference for sugary foods. Taste sensitivity generally declines with age.