As you know, your tongue contains five taste sensations – sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami. But did you know that what you eat can change the flavor of what you eat next? You can actually fool your brain to think something tastes different than it should.
Try this out by eating an artichoke. Then drink a glass of water. Your water will taste overly sweet!
And we all know that if you drink a wonderful, sweet glass of orange juice after you brush your teeth with toothpaste, the OJ will taste absolutely horrid.
Did you ever hear of “miracle fruit”? These are little West African berries that will transform any sour taste into pure sweetness.
As fun as these tricks are, they are based in pure science and they just go to prove how complex and important your tongue really is. Picture your tongue – it is covered with clusters of taste-sensitive, protein packed cells that trigger a taste message to your brain. Of course, how they differentiate the different taste sensations is one of the true mysteries of life. There are specific proteins that can detect sweet, bitter and umami, but salty and sour? Scientists are still trying to figure some of those mysteries out.
Artichoke? Sweet Water?
The basics of the artichoke hack were introduced in 1972 by a taste scientist by the name of Linda Bartoshuk who identified a vegetable substance named cynarin. When you eat an artichoke, the cynarin quietly latches onto your sweet receptors without actually activating them, but it lurks on your tongue waiting to be released. When you next drink a glass of water, however, the cynarin molecules are washed away, releasing the receptors. It’s this sudden release that triggers a message to the brain, generating the sensation of sweetness.
The culprit in the case of the toothpaste and orange juice is a detergent called sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) that foams when you’re brushing your teeth. These molecules can disperse fat, so the theory is that they can also tamper with the membranes on the tongue, reducing the ability to taste sweet and adding a bitter taste to anything acidic. So when you drink orange juice under the influence of SLS, you taste none of its sweetness and its tartness comes across as bitter.
So, not only is the tongue the strongest muscle in the body, it is also one of the most complex. And a clean, healthy tongue will give you just the right taste sensations (and even the right hack sensations!). Use TUNG Brush and GEL tongue cleaner as part of your daily oral hygiene routine and be sure to taste things right.
Next up…are you a supertaster?