Researchers at Oregon State University have made some fundamentaldiscoveries about how people taste, smell and detect flavor, andwhy they love some foods much more than others. The findings could lead to the Holy Grail of nutrition – helping people learn to really LIKE vegetables. As an evolutionary survival mechanism, humans are wired to prefersweet-tasting foods and avoid bitter substances. In the distantpast, that helped us avoid poison and find food that providedenergy. Now, it just makes us fat.
In several publications, the most recent in the journal Chemical Senses , scientists have outlined exactly how humans use the nose andtongue to recognize the flavor of foods that are safe to eat. Whenodor and taste components of foods are congruent, like vanilla andsugar, they are perceived as one sensation which seems to come fromthe mouth. “This is a trick that the brain plays on us,” said Juyun Lim, anOSU assistant professor of food science and technology. “Vanillahas no taste at all.
It’s a smell, and the pleasant sensation iscoming not from your mouth but from the nose, through the passageway between the back of the mouth and the back of the nose.” When flavors are “incongruent” and not as commonly found together -like vanilla and salt – then people believe they are smelling thevanilla from the nose rather than tasting it in the mouth. “This was an amazing part of our experiments, we did not expect aresult so compelling,” Lim said. “There has been confusion forcenturies about exactly how our senses of taste and smell work.We’re finally starting to work this out.” There are actually several senses that relate to the perceived”flavor” of a food, Lim said. These include taste, which residessolely in the tongue; smell, which is exclusively in the nose; andsomesthesis, which includes things like touch, temperature, and theburn of hot peppers. Even though the mouth and nose are prettyclosely connected, taste and smell do not actually interact witheach other there at all. Interior Led Light Bar
The real action happens in the brain. It decides what you areeating and whether it is safe or not. In the brain, there’s a taste center, and a smell center, andlurking just behind your eyes is a third center called the orbitalfrontal cortex, where taste and smell sensations are integratedinto the perception of a single flavor. That verdict gets relayedback to the tongue and gives the impression of flavor in the mouth. If you don’t believe it, scientists say, there’s a simpleexperiment to demonstrate the point. China Solar Powered Security Lights
Take a sip of your favoritedrink while pinching your nose, and see what it tastes like. Don’trecognize it? Open your nose, and the familiar taste will revealitself. The mechanisms of flavor perception, including those that are bothcongruent and incongruent, probably evolved as a protectivemechanism, Lim said. Foods that were sweet or salty were usuallysafe to eat and provided needed macronutrients, like carbohydrates and salt, and consequently those flavors came to be desired, shesaid. Fluorescent Led Writing Board Manufacturer
Sourness and bitterness, by comparison, often meant food wasspoiled or contained toxins and were a warning sign not to eat it. Those mechanisms served well to prevent a cave dweller fromstarving or getting poisoned, she said, but unfortunately they arestill with us, and in today’s world lead straight to ice cream,soft drinks and obesity . But even so, Lim said, flavor perception is still largely alearned behavior. And if it’s learned, she said, we should be able to teach itbetter, or find ways to work around these evolutionary instincts.
“Hardly anyone really likes the somewhat bitter taste of coffee thefirst time they drink it, but they like the caffeine,” Lim said.”Since the coffee makes them feel energized, they learn to like itsflavor.” As the understanding improves of how taste and smell actually workto control our perceptions of flavor, she said, it may be possibleto use that knowledge to lead humans toward an improved diet. Theresearch team is investigating whether people can learn to likevegetables and the potential mechanisms underlying that process. “Many people say they don’t like the ‘taste’ of cruciferousvegetables like cauliflower or brussel sprouts, for instance,” Limsaid. “But what they are mainly reacting to is the smell of thesevegetables, which includes a defensive compound that makes evenother animals shy away from eating them. Find a way to help improvetheir smell, and you’ll find a way to make people enjoy eatingthem.” Additional References Citations.