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UmamiUnlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste$
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Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbæk

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231168908

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231168908.001.0001

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The first four

The first four

Sour, sweet, salty, and bitter

(p.15) The first four

Ole G. Mouritsen

Klavs Styrbæk

Jonas Drotner Mouritsen

, Mariela Johansen
Columbia University Press

This chapter describes the first four basic tastes: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. The perception of taste has its physiological origin in the taste receptor cells found in the taste buds, which are embedded in tiny protrusions (papillae) located primarily on the top of the tongue but also distributed over the soft palate, pharynx, epigluttis, and the entrance to the esophagus. There are approximately 9,000 taste buds on the human tongue, clustered together in groups of 50 or so. Each taste bud is made up of 50–150 taste receptor cells. Like other cells, they are encapsulated in a cell membrane, which holds the secret of taste perception. This chapter first discusses the physiology and biochemistry of taste before analyzing the interplay between sweet and bitter. It then explains how taste receptors work and concludes by looking at cultural differences in the way tastes are described by focusing on MSG.

Keywords:   taste, sour, sweet, salty, bitter, taste buds, taste perception, physiology, biochemistry, taste receptors

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