Taste Zones - Health Chef Julia Chebotar

Does Your Tongue Really Have “Taste Zones”?

August 12, 2022

Sure, you remember the tongue map or taste zones in biology textbooks from school. In the drawing, we could see the tongue divided into different zones: bitter across the back, sweet across the front, salty at the sides near the front, and sour at the sides towards the back.

And even though this structure is not that far from the truth, the reality is much more complex. 

The old theory and the misinterpretation 

Everything started in 1901 when a German scientist called David Pauli Hänig studied the tongue and its function to identify flavors. He created an experiment where he dropped salty, sweet, sour, and bitter samples onto different parts of the patient’s tongues.

What he discovered was that the sensitivity of taste varies in different areas of the tongue, the tip, and the edges, the most sensitive parts. 

But when he got to transfer this information to a graph, gave the impression those different areas corresponded to different tastes. There lies the confusion. 

How does the tongue really work 

Nowadays, we have more comprehensive knowledge about the tongue and its connection to the brain. We don’t talk about taste “zones” but taste “buds”

Taste buds are tiny sensory organs on your tongue that send taste messages to your brain. They have nerve endings that have chemical reactions to the food we ingest. Taste buds are found in the roof of the mouth and even in the throat.

So, rather than being one zone specifically made for one taste, it’s more like millions of little organs packed with specific receptors that engage with different flavors. 

We have approximately 8,000 taste buds, each containing a mixture of receptor cells, allowing them to taste any of our five tastes. 

Do you want to try this theory with delicious food? Check out my Instagram for easy and healthy cooking recipes you can make at home.

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