Do Different Parts of the Tongue Identify Different Flavors?

It is a common myth that the tongue contains zones to taste particular flavors, such as bitter near the back of the tongue; however, different parts of the tongue do not identify different flavors - the entire tongue is covered with taste buds that can identify five basic flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory (technically referred to as “umami”.)

The ability for the tongue to taste various flavors can be traced back to an evolutionary defense mechanism that allowed humans to determine if a food is likely to be poisonous (as toxic plants were often bitter) or is rich in nutrients (salty signified a protein source).

More about the sense of taste:

  • Spicy is not technically considered a taste – it is actually a pain signal sent to the brain.

  • The average adult has between 2,000 and 4,000 taste buds, which are regenerated with fresh sensory cells every week.

  • Scientists believe there are 10 different intensities to humans’ five basic tastes; therefore, over 100,000 different flavor combinations are theoretically possible. If temperature and smell are taken into account, there are thousands more tastes possible.

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Any ideas why the myth perpetuates?

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