The Surprising Way Saliva Impacts Your Taste

Your spit may help you learn to love veggies.

It may not just be your taste buds determining your food preferences. A new study suggests that proteins in your saliva adapt and bind to bitter compounds, making them more palatable. The salivary protein’s role of binding to bitter compounds can make your food taste better because the proteins produced can render the flavor of the less bitter compounds.

Over a course of six weeks, researchers had 64 participants drink three eight-ounce glasses of almond or cow’s milk with cocoa each day on alternate weeks. The participants rated the bitterness, which reasonably quickly went down. The findings show that repeatedly being exposed to bitter foods, whether it be cocoa or leafy greens, can change the way you taste other bitter foods because of adaptation. Dr. Running states, “This is a novel mechanism for adapting to a mildly aversive-tasting substance.” Our ability to develop a tolerance for certain foods involves changes in the mouth and the brain. Since most adaptations are likely biological, the research team hopes to extend the study to other variables and track the results.

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