1. Does anyone remember that map of the tongue showing where the different taste receptors are located? I remember it well, but apparently I was lied to my entire childhood, because it’s not accurate even in the slightest. Due to a mistranslation of a research paper from German to English, somehow this diagram was created and passed around from school to school, deceiving us poor elementary kids into thinking that our sugary desserts could only be efficiently enjoyed by the tip of the tongue. All of the different tastes can, in fact, be sensed by any of the taste buds.
2. There are 5 tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory flavor found in soy sauce and tomatoes). Fun fact, there are umami receptors in the digestive tract as well as the tongue. (You can enjoy your savory meals for so much longer!)
3. There are only a few types of receptors for each of the tastes, except bitter, which has over 25 types of receptors. This helps us to better detect the taste of poisonous foods, most of which are bitter compounds.
4. Many tastes from the food a mother eats end up in the amniotic fluid and in breast milk, so infants actually prefer foods that their mothers ate during gestation.
5. Sugar and alcohol set off the same reward circuits, so people with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to enjoy intense sweet foods.
6. Chemicals related to those found in marijuana called endocannabinoids make sweet foods taste even sweeter (helps explain the munchies).
7. Miraculin, a compound found in the “miracle fruit” native to West Africa, binds to receptors on the tongue which makes even the most sour of foods, such as pure lemon juice, taste sweet. Researchers are currently working on genetically engineering the miraculin gene into low-sugar foods to make healthier food options taste sweeter.
Just for Fun