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The Science of Taste & Nutrition

Taste, gustatory perception, or gustation is the sensory impression, of food and beverages or other substances on the tongue and is one of the five traditional senses.

Science of Taste

The experience of flavour of food or beverages, arises from the integration of multiple sensory cues, including odour, taste, temperature, appearance, etc. Food and beverages we consume need to be perceived as appealing and not just as filling; taste quality is critical. Sensory pleasures from the taste of foods is a major determinant of food intake: Foods that satisfy the taste (via flavour, texture, mouth feel, sensory perception) may contribute not only to greater eating experience, but also to a sense of satiation and satiety. Studies indicate that in addition to the nutritional composition, a food’s taste, smell, texture, temperature, colour and appearance all affect satiety, contributing to sensory-specific satiety attributed to individual foods.

An individual’s genetic makeup partially accounts for their tasting abilities and preferences for specific foods. Some individuals are genetically programmed to have more taste buds and, as a result, taste more flavours in a particular food. A person's ability to taste can lie anywhere in a spectrum from poor to exceptional, with the ability to sense tastes increasing in proportion to the number of taste buds present. The difference in the number of taste buds can be extreme; researchers have found anywhere from 11 to 1,100 taste buds per square inch in various young people tested. Researchers have also found that women tend to have more taste buds than men and, as a result, are often better tasters. How well people taste greatly affects what they like.

Taste Preferences and Perceptions

The sense of taste is one of the most important human senses

  • Senses of taste allow us to separate undesirable foods from those that are nutritious
  • Taste senses are strongly tied to primitive emotional and behavioural functions of our nervous system
  • Taste defines our ingestion of foods, beverages and medications
  • Taste preference refers to whether a person will choose certain type of food in preference to others, and he/she uses this to help control the type of diet eaten
  • Taste preferences often change in accordance with the needs of the body for specific substances
  • There are many pathophysiological conditions as well as daily habits that have close relation with the gustatory function
  • Taste perception is an important factor that affects the quality of life
  • Alteration in taste perception is crucial because it influences dietary habits and general health
  • Taste perception is the sensation that results when taste buds convey information about the chemical composition of a substance

References

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