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We humans are lucky to have an extremely developed palate. Evolving giftpar excellence, our taste buds are a complex network which allowed our ancestors to resist numerous constraints and ensure their reproduction: detection of toxic substances, identification of nutritious foods or balancing the diet. We are able to perceive 5 main families of tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami flavor. On October 5, 2023, researchers from the University of South Carolina published an article in Nature Communications categorizing a new flavor to add to our panoply.
Ammonium chloride, more than a simple reaction
The reaction between the tongue and ammonium chloride had been known for a long time. However, we did not consider this chemical reaction as a flavor strictly speaking. According to the findings of this team from South Carolina, it turns out that our tongue is actually completely capable of perceiving its tastethanks to the activation of the OTOP1 channel: a protein involved in the perception of certain sensations or flavors. The very one that allows us to perceive acidity.
This ability is not a coincidence, but an evolutionary response. Indeed, if the body can detect ammonium so well, it is because it is toxic in high doses. Neuroscientist Emily Liman explains that it is often present in potentially harmful waste. Wastewater, agricultural waste or fertilizers for example.
A growing list of tastes?
Other substances are also candidates for becoming this famous sixth taste. Other studies in the past have attempted to convey the “starchy” or the taste associated with fat, called “oleogustus“.
In reality, the question of the total number of tastes that the human tongue can detect is not 8217;has not yet found his answer. Other researchers also highlight carbon dioxide or calcium, but for the moment, no real scientific consensusexists on this subject.
Gary Beuachamp, a biologist, points out that if other flavors certainly exist, their intensity will not be as perceptible as those currently recognized.
The sector of research into proteins at the origin of taste or olfactory sensations is an area where researchers still have much to explore. Ammonium chloride will perhaps become the sixth official taste, but others could very well follow in the future.
- The ammonium chloride has just been designated as a candidate molecule of the sixth taste.
- If the body detects it, it is because it is a compound which can be dangerous in high doses.
- The list of flavors perceived by the human body is not fixed, and could very well evolve in the future.