Human Taste Buds May Recognize a Sixth Flavor: Calcium

By Eliza Strickland | August 21, 2008 5:07 pm

tongueResearchers have found specialized receptors on the tongues of mice that detect calcium, leading them to hypothesize that humans have the calcium-dedicated receptors, too. It may be time to add calcium to the types of tastes — sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory — that can be detected by humans [HealthDay News].

But in another twist, most mice don’t like the taste, lead researcher Michael Tordoff says. Tordoff and his colleagues gave 40 different strains of mice a choice: They could drink water or a calcium-rich liquid. Most preferred water once they tried both. There was, however, one exception—a mouse strain called PWK actually preferred the calcium-enriched liquid. Those mice, it turned out, had a different version of genes that are responsible for taste receptors on the tongue [Scientific American].

The new findings, presented at at an ongoing meeting of the American Chemical Society, may explain why many people have strong reactions to calcium-rich foods like spinach and brussel sprouts (in milk the mineral binds to fats and proteins, dampening its flavor). “Calcium tastes calcium-y,” Tordoff said. “There isn’t a better word for it. It is bitter, perhaps even a little sour…. In tap water, it’s fairly pleasant,” Tordoff said. “But at levels much above that, the taste becomes increasingly bad” [LiveScience].

Tordoff says the discovery of the genes that are responsible for calcium receptors could lead to the creation of engineered foods. The discovery could allow scientists to tweak the taste of foods to make them more palatable. Alternatively, drugs that block the bone-strengthening mineral’s taste could be created, making it easier for us to eat [these foods]. Dr Tordoff said: “People don’t consume as much calcium as nutritionists would like and one reason for this is that foods high in calcium don’t taste good to many people” [Telegraph].

For adventures in flavor-hacking, check out the DISCOVER article, “The Biology of Bitterness.”

Image: flickr/Michael (mx5tx)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain
MORE ABOUT: calcium, nutrition, senses, taste
  • Victor Song

    Hmm…this is a very interesting article. It might explain why my tap water, which is hard water, tastes a bit soury-sweet.

  • http://uczelnia.rzeszow.pl/ Fawn Kutchin

    I wish to show my appreciation to the writer for rescuing me from such a problem. As a result of researching through the search engines and getting basics which are not beneficial, I assumed my life was well over. Living without the strategies to the difficulties you’ve resolved by way of your entire posting is a crucial case, as well as the kind which could have negatively affected my career if I had not noticed your web blog. Your primary mastery and kindness in handling a lot of stuff was priceless. I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t encountered such a solution like this. I can also now look forward to my future. Thanks so much for the impressive and amazing guide. I won’t hesitate to endorse the sites to any individual who should receive direction about this issue.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »