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Your Tongue Can Detect the Aroma of Foods

Did you ever imagine that you can smell with your tongue? Definitely you can, a team of scientists discovered that the sensors in our nose are also present in taste cells on our tongue. This finding reveals a surprising connection between our senses of taste and smell. 

This curiosity led to a groundbreaking study inspired by the simple question, “Do snakes stick out their tongues to smell?” It could completely change the way we understand our senses of smell and taste. They might be more connected than we ever imagined. Let’s take a look and learn more about this discovery.

Check Aroma of foods 1

How Taste and Smell Traditionally Interact

We’ve always known that taste and smell play a significant role in how we experience flavor. When you chew food, odor molecules travel up the back of your throat to your nose. These molecules then bind to receptors in your nasal cavity, sending signals about the food’s aroma to your brain. Scientists previously thought this interaction only happened in the brain. They believed taste buds were solely responsible for detecting basic taste and smell receptors confined to the nose. 

But here is a twist!

Nose is also present in taste cells on our tongue

The New Interaction Paradigm

Scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia used genetic, biochemical, and calcium imaging techniques to study living human taste cells in culture. They found that these taste cells contain many key molecules in olfactory receptors and respond to odor molecules similarly to smell receptor cells. It suggests that taste and smell interact on the tongue, not just in the brain. That means tiny taste bud parties where flavors mingle with fragrant smells before the information reaches your brain.

Our research may help explain how odor molecules modulate taste perception. This may lead to the development of odor-based taste modifiers that can help combat the excess salt, sugar, and fat intake associated with diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

Mehmet Hakan Ozdener, MD, PhD, MPH Image Source : Monell Center

Potential Applications and Future Research

Here are some exciting  possibilities:

  • Odor-based Taste Modifiers: This discovery could pave the way for creating new flavor enhancers. Imagine adding a specific scent to your food that tricks your taste buds into thinking it’s saltier, sweeter, or fattier than it is. This finding could be a game-changer for people trying to cut back on unhealthy ingredients.
  • Screening Food Molecules: Scientists could use cultured taste cells containing olfactory receptors to identify molecules that activate specific taste and smell sensations. It could lead to the development of new flavorings and food additives.

This discovery could lead to the development of odor-based taste modifiers, which reduce excess salt, sugar, and fat intake. It could be significant in fighting diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes. Researchers also plan to use cultured taste cells to identify which molecules bind to specific human olfactory receptors. Ongoing studies will explore whether certain taste cell types contain olfactory receptors and how odor molecules influence taste perception.

Understanding how taste and smell interact on the tongue could help develop new strategies to modify food flavors, potentially helping combat diet-related diseases. This discovery provides new insights into how our senses work together to create the flavors we enjoy.

Conclusion

This research shows that your taste buds are doing a lot more than detecting basic tastes. They could be throwing mini smell parties, creating a symphony of flavor sensations that activate on your tongue before reaching your brain. It also opens up some possibilities for modifying food taste and understanding sensory interactions. 

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