Why I Hate Anchovies
Reported June 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Why do some people like these foods and others don't? Science may have many of the basics of the human body down, but our sense of taste and smell are still somewhat of a mystery.
What makes some of us scrunch our nose at certain foods is a question biologists have been trying to figure out.
"Most people don't realize that most of what we call taste -- enjoying a meal or a fine wine -- is actually smell," Karen Kalumuck, Ph.D., a biologist at San Francisco's Exploratorium, tells Ivanhoe.
Kalumuck says 75 percent of what we call taste is due to what we smell. "Think about when you've a cold. You've got this stuffed up nose. I mean, what did things taste like? Not so great," she tells Ivanhoe. "That's really because we can't have the odorant molecules meet up with the sensory receptors in the nose and transmit that information to the brain."
You can see how the nose and the mouth work together if you pinch your nose and eat a piece of candy, then unplug your nose while it's still in your mouth.
The nose has 5 million odor receptors that can detect 10,000 unique odors. On the tongue, there are taste buds. Inside each bud could be 50 to 100 taste receptor cells. Each receptor cell detects one of five different types of taste, sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.
What's umami? It detects the amino acid glutamate and was added to the list in 2000.
"Most ... have probably experienced glutamate in the form of MSG," Kalumuck says.
Also, spicy foods are not part of our taste or smell receptors ... They stimulate our pain receptors. So people who love spicy have a high tolerance for pain! And taste is all genetic! Your genes determine the type and number of sensors you have, so you can blame mom or dad if you don't like your food.
Kalumuck says you can learn to enjoy foods that might -- at first bite -- taste unpleasant.
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