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How is it that our tongue can distinguish different types of foods?
Answer 1:

Our perception of food includes the feel of the food, like its consistency, if it is fatty or hot (both in terms of temperature and spiciness), its smell, and its taste. Taste has been categorized into four basic types: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Different types of taste receptors (taste buds) recognize the four different types of taste, and these receptors are grouped on different areas of the tongue.
The tip of your tongue is best able to taste sweetness and saltiness. The sides of your tongue can best taste sourness. The back of your tongue, and a bit on the front/side, can best taste bitterness.

Lately scientists are talking of a fifth type of taste called umami (the taste associated with mono-sodium glutamate, or MSG). Scientists, however, still have a very difficult time to identify the taste receptors on the tongue. They believe that there are cell-surface proteins on the tongue that detect these tastes.

A very good article about these taste receptors can be found at

http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/sn_arc99/2_27_99/fob1.htm


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