Scientists at the Oregon State University in Corvallis have found our sixth taste. According to them, this sixth taste allows us to identify starchy flavor and explains our love for carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta, potato and bread.
Lead researcher Juyun Lim from Oregon State University told New Scientist that participants would call this taste “starchy” and taste like eating flour, with Asians describing it as rice-like while Caucasians describing it as bread-like or pasta-like. Lim cites that the taste can be demonstrated when most people would choose to eat bread in larger amounts or as a daily staple over chocolate.
The study involved 22 individuals. The research team offered them solutions with different carbohydrate levels and asked them to rate each afterward. This is when they found that the participants tasted the starchy flavor.
On the other hand, when the participants were given a compound that blocks the receptors on the tongue for detecting sweet taste, they still detected the floury flavor. This indicates that we can still taste carbohydrates even before they have been broken down into sugar.
However, when the participants were given a compound that blocks the salivary enzyme that breaks down long-chain carbohydrates, they could not taste the starch when given the solutions that only contain long chains of carbohydrates. According to the researchers, this demonstrated that the floury flavor comes from the shorter chains of carbohydrates.
Overall, the research team said that the findings prove why people love to eat rice, bread and other foods rich in carbohydrates. They proved that humans are not limited by the five tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami.
They hope that their study could guide them into identifying the specific receptors on the tongue that are responsible for detecting the sixth taste. They also want to investigate the flavor of carbonated drinks, the metallic taste in our blood and even amino acids.