DailyDirt: Accounting For Taste
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
Thanks to the receptors in our taste buds, eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Of the five different taste sensations, sweetness is probably the most pleasing. Starting from infancy, our bodies are already programmed to seek out sugar because it provides the energy to keep us going. There is also some indication that babies can be influenced to like salt if they are exposed to salty foods early on. As part of an evolutionary survival mechanism, our bodies are programmed to avoid eating bitter tasting things because many toxic compounds taste bitter. People like to eat sour-tasting foods, like citrus fruits or pickles, but from an evolutionary perspective, sourness is generally a warning for food spoilage. Finally, umami is supposed to be a “savory” taste, which is produced when our taste buds detect glutamate, the salt of the amino acid glutamic acid. Foods that naturally have an umami taste include cheese and tomatoes, so it’s no wonder that pizza tastes so good! Here are a few more tasty tidbits.
- Many animals, including cats and dolphins, can’t taste sweet things. It turns out that a large number of carnivores can’t taste sugars because they have non-working versions of the genes responsible for making sugar receptors on the tongue. [url]
- Researchers are working on developing artificial tongues that can mimic the human taste response to various flavors. However, to fully reproduce the experience of taste requires the development of an artifical nose, because a large part of “taste” is actually due to smell. [url]
- The elusive “salt receptor” is unlike the receptors for all the other tastes, and figuring it out is complicated by the fact that sodium is essential for life but can kill you at high enough doses. (Apparently, it takes only a few mouthfuls of salt water from the Dead Sea to kill a person.) Researchers now believe that there are two receptors or mechanisms involved in tasting salt — one that makes salt desirable and another (the elusive one) that makes it undesirable at high concentrations. [url]
If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post.
Filed Under: carnivores, receptors, salty, senses, sweet, taste, tongue
Comments on “DailyDirt: Accounting For Taste”
dogs can taste sweet
cuz you gotta make sure they don’t get into antifreeze — it tastes sweet but it’s also toxic.
Re: dogs can taste sweet
One of the dangers of the advanced chemistry of the modern age is that we can create things that trick our bodies, bypassing the warning systems we have developed over millions of years of evolution.
In nature, very few sweet things are toxic. Lead is the only thing I can think off. Lead is delicious.
If you are concerned about antifreeze, only ethylene glycol is toxic. Propylene glycol, a common “marine antifreeze” or “non-toxic antifreeze” is also used a food additive, so use it instead and your pets will be fine. It doesn’t taste nearly as good as ethylene glycol does, but it wont kill you or your pets either.
Re: Re: dogs can taste sweet
“It doesn’t taste nearly as good as ethylene glycol does…”. How do you know this?
feline sweet tooth
Are they sure about cats not having sugar receptors? Because my fattest cat just climbed up on the table to scarf down maple-syrup-soaked pancakes. No bacon involved.