Our tongue can also detect odors (and how that could help fight obesity)

Our tongue can also detect odors (and how that could help fight obesity)


The sense of taste and smell work together.

We all know that the tongue is a muscle, but, apparently, it is much more powerful than we thought.

A new study argues that in addition to allowing us to taste the flavors, the tongue also has sensors that allow us to detect odors.

If you are now sticking out your tongue to try to smell something, do not waste your time, it does not work like that.

The findings of a group of researchers from the Monell Center of the University City Science Center in Philadelphia, United States, are a bit more complex and reveal new connections between our senses of taste and smell.

His experiments showed that receptors that pick up odors in the nose are also present in taste cells that are found in the tongue.

What is new?

The sense of taste works like a guardian who evaluates the nutritional value and the toxic potential of what we put in our mouths.

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Image caption Smell gives us information about what we eat.

Smell, on the other hand, gives us more detailed information about those flavors. This is what helps us, for example, to differentiate an orange from a banana.

By putting these two types of information together, we have a complete notion of what we eat.

Until now, it was thought that taste and smell were two independent senses that interacted only when the information they sent reached the brain.

The new study, however, suggests that this “conversation” between both senses actually starts from the tongue.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers worked with cultures of human cells related to taste, to see how they reacted to odor molecules.

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Image caption The brain processes the information sent by taste and smell.

“Our research can help explain how odor molecules modulate taste perception,” cell biologist Mehmet H. Ozdener, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“The presence of olfactory and gustatory receptors in the same cell gives us interesting opportunities to study the interactions between odor and taste stimuli in the tongue.”

Because it is important?

Ozdener warns that there is still more to be done in order to understand in detail how these senses work, but he assures that their study allows us to think about practical benefits for people.

He mentions, for example, that these investigations could be used to develop flavor modifiers based on odor.

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Image caption Ozdener says his finding could help fight obesity.

That way you could combat the excess salt, sugar and fat present in some foods.

Thus, it could be seen as a way to combat diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

Charles Spence, a researcher with the Future of Food Program at the University of Oxford, quoted by the British newspaper The Guardian, welcomed the research, but said it was too early to say whether it could be used to combat obesity.

For his part, Dr. John McLean, an expert in anatomy and neurosciences, tells that although he sees it possible that the tongue has olfactory receptors, he believes that those olfactory receptors “do not contribute much to the perception of taste.”

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