You can’t taste food without saliva


In order for food to have taste, chemicals from the food must first dissolve in saliva. It’s only once they’ve been dissolved in a liquid that the chemicals can be detected by receptors on taste buds. During this process, some salivary constituents chemically interact with taste substances. For example, salivary buffers (e.g., bicarbonate ions) decrease the concentration of free hydrogen ions (sour taste), and there are some salivary proteins which may bind with bitter taste substances.

Here’s a quick science experiment to test this out — get out a clean towel, and rub your tongue dry; then place some dry foods on your tongue, one by one, such as a cookie, pretzel, or some other dry food. After this session, drink a glass of water and repeat. Did you feel a difference?

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