The Possible 6th Taste Explains A Lot About Our Eating Habits

If we're playing favorites on the food pyramid, it's hard to deny that carbs reign supreme. Downing a bowl of buttery pasta or nibbling a slice of fresh bread simply feels good. And the cozy, comforting feeling we associate with complex carbohydrates may lie right in their taste.

Researchers at Oregon State University at Corvallis think they may have discovered a sixth taste. You're most likely already familiar with the original five: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Well soon, we may officially be adding "starchy" to the list.

Juyun Lim, the researcher behind this potential discovery, explained to New Scientist that up until recently, most food scientists didn't believe that we could really taste complex carbohydrates because enzymes in our saliva break starches down into sugars. But Lim didn't buy this theory. She said, "Every culture has a major source of complex carbohydrate. The idea that we can't taste what we're eating doesn't make sense."

Lim conducted a study in which volunteers were given a variety of carbohydrate solutions containing both long and short carbohydrate chains. They were also given compounds that block the detection of sweetness. Lim found that the volunteers could still make out "floury" flavors. According to Lim, "This is the first evidence that we can taste starch as a flavor in its own right."

Starchy cannot yet be officially named a flavor until it's met a few other criteria. New Scientist reports that one of those is that the flavor must be considered "useful." Lim certainly believes that the taste is useful, and that's why people are so crazy for carbs. She explains, “Sugar tastes great in the short term, but if you’re offered chocolate and bread, you might eat a small amount of the chocolate, but you’d choose the bread in larger amounts, or as a daily staple." As people who love French fries, baguettes, and pasta of any kind, we think Lim's is a pretty solid argument. (Cosmopolitan)

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