5 Major Types of Tastes And How The Gustatory Sense Works

You know that feeling when you smell something, you’re convinced you know what that would taste like? That is because smell and taste are two senses that are very similar and have close reactions to the chemicals presented.

basic tastes
Image credit: Alimentarium

There are different types of molecules that react to different types of senses. The odorant reacts with the odor senses, it gives rise to smell. Then there are tastants that react with taste receptors on our tongue. Tastants are taste-provoking chemical molecules that are dissolved in ingested liquids or saliva and they simulate the sense of taste. Now, considering tastants and odorants are close, they are interrelated to each other. Hence, the disturbance of one affects the other. If you have an industrial accident with chlorine you will realize that you can not only smell anything but also cannot taste anything. If you notice when you have a cold, considering you can’t smell anything, everything tastes weird.

Fact: Worms cannot distinguish between smell and taste but they can distinguish between volatile and non-volatile compounds which means if you put a worm in a freshly painted room, it will know that the rooms are freshly painted.

Taste Buds

Taste buds are a little package that looks like a little garlic in your mouth or are a part of it. And within this papilla, there exist 50 taste receptors that are specialized and some basal cells and each receptor has a hair that sticks out called gustatory hair. They are responsible for the taste. Say you put a stick in your mouth, the saliva breaks it down or melts it and depending on the saliva they stick to the receptors which are designed to create taste.

image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste_bud

How is taste different from flavor?

Flavor includes the involvement of all your senses in the sense that all of your body feels it. Taste is a molecular formula wrapped up in saliva hitting against the gustatory hair which sends a signal to your brain to which your brain responds accordingly.

image credit: https://aaronberdofewine.com/tag/taste/

Types of tastes

There are, as everyone knows, primary tastes: sweet, salty, sour & bitter. There was one more taste discovered but it always went always unrecognized. This is because the researcher was Japanese and his work was never translated but later in the 1900s, there was a taste discovered which seemed to be neither like the rest. This taste seemed to have different reactions to the gustatory hair. This taste was termed as Umami and it is savory. Some confused it with flavor. It was accepted as an official taste after 1985.

Can you imagine something like ‘fat’ being a taste? Unbelievable right? It is the 6th primary taste. The French seem to find fat a taste as humans have a thing for fat. The more the sensitivity you have to that taste, the less you eat. They found that supertasters who experience a sense of taste greater than average, tend to eat less. People don’t detect fat that much, so you don’t eat foods you taste the most.

image credit: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322295.php

Why do we have a sense of taste anyway? This is because we learned to eat by deriving pleasure from it.

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