Science 3 min read

New Study: You Can Smell Food With Your Tongue

StockSnap / Pixabay

StockSnap / Pixabay

There’s a general misconception that flavor is the same as taste. Well, that’s not true. In reality, a food or drink’s flavor comes from its smell rather than taste.

Aside from detecting the presence of sweet, bitter, sour, salty or umami molecules on the tongue, taste also evaluates nutrient value. In addition, it informs us about the potential toxicity of what we intend to consume.

With smell, all you get is the quality of food flavor. In other words, you’ll know that the food in your mouth is.

The brain then combines the input from these senses to create the multi-modal sensation of flavor.

In the past, researchers believed that taste and smell are independent sensory systems. As such, they never interact until their respective information reaches the brain.

However, a cell biologist in Monell, Mehmet Hakan Ozdener’s study proves otherwise.

The Tongue As An Organ For Smelling

A publication in Chemical Senses described how Ozdener and his colleagues maintained living human taste cells.

Through the genetic and biochemical analysis of the taste cell culture, the researchers were able to prove that it contains several essential molecules present in olfactory receptors.

And like the olfactory receptor cells, the researchers believed that cultured taste cell also responded to odor molecules. So, they confirmed the suspicion using a method know as calcium imaging. They were right.

These two findings serve as the first demonstration of a functional olfactory receptor in the taste cell. In other words, our tongue can smell the food we eat, and this ability interacts with the taste system to enhance the whole tasting experience.

The researchers performed other experiments to demonstrate that a single taste cell not only contains a taste receptor but an olfactory one too.

Ozdener said:

“The presence of olfactory receptors and taste receptors in the same cell will provide us with exciting opportunities to study interactions between odor and taste stimuli on the tongue.”

Moving forward, the research can serve as a groundwork for other studies.

For example, scientists may want to explore if each taste cell type has its unique olfactory receptor. Also, researchers could also explore how odor molecules affect taste perception.

“This may lead to the development of odor-based taste modifiers that can help combat the excess salt, sugar, and fat intake associated with diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes,” says Ozdener.

Read More: Scientists Create Neural Implant That Turns Brain Signals to Speech

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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