November 3, 2008

The Sensitivity of Taste

The Sensitivity of Taste
People vary in their sensitivity to different tastes. Sensitivity depends on the length of time allowed to taste a substance. Sweet and salt tastes are detected quickly, because they are detected by taste buds on the tip of the tongue; in addition, they are usually very soluble compounds. Bitter compounds, on the other hand, may take a full second to be detected because they are detected at the back of the tongue. The taste may linger, producing a bitter aftertaste.

Sensitivity to a particular taste also depends in the concentration of the substance responsible for the taste. The threshold concentration is defined as the concentration required for identification of a particular substance. The threshold concentration may vary from person to person; some people are more sensitive to a particular taste than others and are, therefore able to detect it at a lower concentration.

Temperature of a food also affects its flavor. Warm foods generally taste stronger and sweeter than cold foods. For example, melted ice cream tastes much sweeter than frozen ice cream. There are two reasons for the effects of temperature on flavor. The volatility of substances is increased at higher temperatures, and so they smell stronger. Taste bud receptivity is also an important factor. Taste buds are most receptive in the region between 68 and 86 degree F and so tastes will be more intense in this temperature range.

Psychological factors also affect taste sensitivity and perception. Judgments about flavor are often influenced by preconceived ideas based on the appearance of the food or on previous experience with a similar food. For example, strawberry flavored foods would be expected to be red. However if colored green, because of the association of green foods with flavors such as lime, it would be difficult to identify the flavors strawberry unless it was very strong.

Color intensity also may affect flavor perception. A stronger color may cause perception of a stronger flavor in a product, even if the stronger color is simply due to the addition of more food coloring.
The Sensitivity of Taste

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