Veronique Greenwood over at BBC Future has a piece up today about “hacking” your taste buds. I don’t know about you, but that sort of terminology conjures images of Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie typing away on a keyboard trying to access your tongue. In reality, it’s a lot more simple than that.
Taste buds behave differently when their environments change. To “hack” your taste bud, you just have to alter the conditions on your tongue before exposing them to a different flavor. The example Greenwood uses is drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth. Toothpaste changes the taste buds’ environment and that makes them process orange juice differently.
Greenwood explains how this works:
“To understand why these foods mess with your mind, first think about your tongue. It’s covered with little clusters of taste-sensitive cells, and each cell’s membrane is studded with proteins that function, essentially, as doorbells. When something – a molecule in food you’ve eaten – hits them just right, a message shoots from the cell to the brain, causing one of the five taste sensations: sweetness, bitterness, sourness, saltiness, or umami.”
Greenwood goes on to touch on the history of taste science, the discoveries that still need to be made, and the havoc sodium lauryl sulphate wreaks on your orange juice-tasting receptors. Check out her whole article (linked below) and let us know what you think in the comments.