Scientists have discovered a sixth taste – and it might just explain why some carbs are so damn irresistible.
It is well known that our tongues can register certain primary tastes such as sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and, more recently, umami – which refers to the savoury taste associated with monosodium glutamate.
But now scientists have shown that there might just be a sixth taste – the “starchy” taste associated with carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and potatoes.
Juyun Lim and a team of researchers from Oregon State University fed a mixture of carbohydrate solutions to volunteers, who identified a “starchy” taste in solutions containing both long and short carbohydrate chains.
This suggests that the tongue can identify carbs before they are broken down into sugars.
“Asians would say it was rice-like, while Caucasians described it as bread-like or pasta-like. It’s like eating flour,” Juyun Lim told New Scientist.
Even when volunteers were given something to block the receptors on the tongue responsible for detecting sweet flavours, they could still identify the starch-like taste.
Researchers now hope to discover specific starch receptors on the tongue to prove their theory.
One of the criteria for being listed as a primary taste is that the flavour is useful to humans. With starch, it is a source of slow-release energy, which researchers said is worth detecting.
“I believe that’s why people prefer complex carbs,” added Lim.
“Sugar tastes great in the short term, but if you’re offered chocolate and bread, you might eat a small amount of the chocolate, but you’d choose the bread in larger amounts, or as a daily staple.”