Next time you crave pizza, pasta and other carb-heavy meals, blame it on science! IFL Science reports that researchers have discovered that there is a biological reason why we love this type of food so much. It all boils down to the discovery of a sixth primary taste sensor on our tongues. Pretty crazy, right?
The five primary tastes we already know about are salty, sweet, bitter, sour and savory (umami). Now, researchers have found that our sixth taste is a carb-based one described as “starchy.”
Juyun Lim, a professor of food science and technology at Oregon State University, tells New Scientist that we’ve been omitting this very important taste. “Every culture has a major source of complex carbohydrate,” she explains. “The idea that we can’t taste what we’re eating doesn’t make sense.”
Starches are comprised of chains of sugar molecules and are essential to the human diet. Scientists previously believed, though, that the tongue could not taste them.
In a recent study, Lim and her fellow researchers had a variety of different carbohydrate solutions fed to volunteers. “They called the taste ‘starchy’,” Lim shares with New Scientist. “Asians would say it was rice-like, while Caucasians described it as bread-like or pasta-like. It’s like eating flour.” The volunteer’s ability to discern the starchy flavor was a breakthrough.
Lim thinks the new discovery explains why people crave complex-carbs the way they do. “Sugar tastes great in the short term, but if you’re offered chocolate and bread, you might eat a small amount of the chocolate,” she says, “but you’d choose the bread in larger amounts, or as a daily staple.”
Will this lead to the discovery of even more flavors? Possibly, yes. Scientists are also in the process of testing the flavor of carbonated drinks, the metallic taste you get in your mouth from blood, and amino acids (protein).