Which food tastes disgustingly delicious
How taste is created
Only a small part of the tongue is used for taste. As a strong muscle, it ensures order in the oral cavity, forms language and palpates food. The taste buds, which consist of around 100 cells, are also located on the tongue, palate and epiglottis.
An adult human has around 2,000 to 5,000 taste buds. In the case of an infant, there are twice as many.
We can perceive five flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter - and umami, the so-called meat taste, which has only been known for some time to characterize protein-containing foods.
Each flavor stimulates the sensory cells in the taste buds of the tongue in a special way. Like acidic foods, salt, for example, creates a weak voltage inside the cell. The electrical impulse is carried by nerves via several intermediate stations to the cerebral cortex.
The other flavors also stimulate the taste receptor cells, but via special receptor proteins that are located in the cell membrane. The flavors dock onto these proteins and thus trigger a cascade of biochemical processes, at the end of which there is also an electrical impulse.
In the cerebral cortex, nerve cells analyze the taste stimuli. Then messenger substances evoke patterns of excitation, which depend on whether the taste is perceived as pleasant or nauseating.
After consuming chocolate, for example, the concentration of endorphins increases in the brain - the messenger substances that trigger feelings of happiness.
That seems to be innate. The predilection for sweet foods has ensured human survival in the history of human development, because the sweet taste signals that the food contains high-energy carbohydrates.
The aversion to extremely bitter foods is also a legacy of mankind's early days. Because most poisonous plants taste bitter. The sensory cells responsible for this are located in the back of the tongue.
There are around 25 taste receptors that respond to bitter foods. In contrast, significantly less was found for the sweet taste.
Interplay of the senses
Despite the taste receptors - compared to the other senses, the human sense of taste is relatively simple in structure. That is why it is not so much in the mouth that we decide whether something tastes good, but rather in the nose. Because taste is actually 80 percent smell.
Many small parts of the food enter the nose from behind through the throat. Here they stimulate the olfactory receptors. That is why it is improper to eat with your mouth open, but it is definitely beneficial for the taste experience.
The odor particles are better then drawn up to the nose. The eater smells the food better and tastes it more intensely. The touch and temperature sensors are also involved in the taste - and even the pain system: so-called nozi receptors, which react to injuries to the body tissue, tell us the spiciness of chili peppers, for example.
Can you argue about taste?
One loves spinach, while the thought of the green vegetables makes another choke. Almost everyone has a different taste. The genes are to blame. A good 50 different genes influence our taste, as Israeli scientists from the Weizmann Institute for Science have discovered.
Only part of the genes is active; activation is arbitrary. There is an almost infinite number of possible combinations and thus expressions of the human sense of taste.
In addition, some of what we like and what doesn't are determined at an early stage. Researchers at the American Monell Center found out: Anyone who was given bitter-tasting milk as a baby will not be bothered later by a bitter taste. On the other hand, if you were only used to breast milk as a baby, you don't like bitter things later.
Taste and learn to taste
In the course of our lives, taste withers: while a teenager still has a good 9,000 taste buds, an old person only has around 4,000. However, taste perception can suffer not only from dwindling taste buds, but also from poor nutrition.
Those who only eat ready-made meals virtually forget how to taste. There are many flavorings in ready meals. Especially with children, the taste quickly gets used to these aromas and becomes dull. Many children know the taste of a strawberry yogurt better than that of a fresh strawberry.
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