The taste buds could be off, especially if they are not in use. But you are able to restore your taste buds by changing your diet and quitting smoking. But in this article, we will write about taste and food generally.
The taste is the meaning that allows identifying the chemical substances in the form of solutions via chemoreceptors located on the tongue (Vugo receptors). It plays an important role in the diet by allowing us to analyze the flavor of foods. The perception of taste is intimately related to smell, and the term “taste” encompasses both meanings in everyday language.
To fully appreciate the diversity and subtlety of flavors, the body has a whole mechanism of detection and recognition in which the nose and tongue are inseparable. In part genetic, the taste is also a matter of culture. A varied and diversified diet allows us to refine our perception of flavors.
1 – How Are Flavors Detected?
The detection of flavors involves organs in the mouth (taste buds) and the nose (olfactory cells).
*** The Role of the Mouth in Taste
Saliva is essential for detecting tastes and fragrances. It is secreted by glands under the ears, under the jaw, and under the tongue (see figure). It dilutes substances that give food a taste and allows them to infiltrate the taste buds, small cavities scattered on the tongue and in the mouth. The absence of saliva (as a result of illness or taking certain medications) can cause a decrease in taste because the taste buds react only to dilute substances.
At the bottom of the taste buds are sensory receptors, the “buds of taste,” connected to the brain by nerve fibers. The mouth also contains cells able to capture the temperature, the sensation of sharpness, or that of freshness. During chewing, cells under the teeth inform the brain about the texture of the food. Other receptors analyze the consistency of the food, fat, wet, creamy, or melting, for example.
*** The Role of the Nose in Taste
The nose contains olfactory cells capable of distinguishing more than 20,000 fragrances. During chewing, foods are heated and crushed, releasing odorous molecules that rise to the nose through the back of the mouth (blue arrow on the diagram above). This phenomenon, called retro-olfaction, strongly contributes to the analysis of food perfumes, even more than the inhalation smell (through the nostrils). Wine tasters, sucking air through their clenched teeth and “gulping” the sip, amplify the phenomenon of retro-olfaction better to distinguish all the flavors of a grand cru.
*** Inseparable Receivers to Better Feel the Taste
The olfactory receptors of the nose and the taste buds of the mouth are complementary and inseparable. This inseparable character is found in the brain where it is difficult to separate the things between smell and taste because the nerve fibers from the nose and tongue come together in a first nervous relay that combines the information before they ‘arrive at the brain.
Note: It’s fat, it’s sweet, it’s … good!
Hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection have shaped our tastes, making us prefer the most nutritious foods. For this reason, when we find delicious food, there is a good chance that it is fat, sweet, or both! While the attraction to fatty foods is universally widespread in humans, the taste of sweetness is especially present in children. It tends to disappear in adults to reappear in the elderly. But in our Western societies, the advent of the industrial production of sugar (in the nineteenth century) has maintained the taste of sweetness among adults … to the chagrin of our line!
2 – Restore Your Taste Buds to Be Able to Recognize the Flavors
Recognizing flavors is a complex phenomenon involving our organs, experience, and genetic heritage. But first, you have to restore your taste buds to be able to recognize the flavors.
*** The Basic Flavors
Among the multitude of nuances that our mouth can distinguish, there are four basic flavors, sweet, salty, bitter, and acid. A fifth fundamental flavor, identified by the Japanese a century ago and unfamiliar to Western palates, is added: it is umami, a word that means “delicious.” This taste is that of glutamate, an amino acid abundant in foods such as meats, parmesan, mushrooms, or breast milk.
For a long time, each fundamental flavor was associated with a particular area of the tongue, responsible for its detection, the sweet on the tip, the bitter on the bottom, the salty on the edges forward, and the acid on the edges back. This mapping of the receivers of the language is today put in question. Losing the tip of the tongue does not prevent distinguishing sweet from salty. These areas are more sensitive to certain flavors but are not the only ones to perceive them.
*** Nuanced Flavors
The basic flavors have many nuances. There are thus several sweet tastes (for example, that of cane sugar and that of aspartame of sugar-reduced products). Likewise, there are several bitter tastes. Different sensory receptors can be simultaneously involved in perceiving a single flavor, and the same receptor can be sensitive to sweet and salty foods.
*** Variable Olfactory Abilities According to People
The ability of the nose to distinguish and recognize scents varies with gender and age. Women and young people are advantaged. Training helps develop this ability. To improve their perception, wine tasters regularly expose their olfactory cells to extracts of flowers, fruits, or spices corresponding to the scents that are found in wines.
Note: Is the taste innate?
The sensitivity to flavors is partly genetic. The gene for sensitivity to the bitterness of broccoli has recently been discovered on chromosome 7! People who are hypersensitive to this substance (6-N-propylthiouracil) do not like the taste of coffee, green tea, pepper, grapefruit, over-fatty foods, or nicotine. The responsible gene exists in five different forms resulting in variable sensitivity.
Apart from genetic inheritance, tastes are shaped by our family and cultural experiences. The sense of taste is built from early childhood, and the best way to educate a child is to offer a varied and varied diet as soon as it is recommended.