Who remembers the tongue taste map? I must admit that as a child, I thought this was fascinating and tried to place different foods on specific areas of my tongue to see if it might create a different flavour experience.
Unfortunately, this “map” does a poor job to explain how we experience sweet, salty, bitter or sour. Even worse, we now know that it is wrong! Apparently it was based on a misunderstood diagram from a 1901 paper.
Taste and flavour are complex. Taste goes well beyond what you put into your mouth and smell with your nose. In fact, scientists have discovered that we have taste receptors all over our bodies!
Eating sugar (or fake sugar like NutraSweet) produces a much sharper insulin rush than injecting the same amount of glucose directly into the bloodstream. Why is this? In a 2007 experiment, cells lining the small intestine were found to contain “taste receptors”. When they detect sugar (that has been consumed vs. injected) – they released a squirt of extra insulin into the blood.
Researchers have even found taste receptors in our bladders (detects sweet), spine (detects sour) and even testes (detect bitter)!
Look out for more info about taste and our preferences for food, coming soon.
Source: “The Food Issue” by Michael Moyer. Published in Scientific American, Sept. 2013.