Photo: Modern Hepburn
Do you know of anyone who hates bread or pasta? I sure don't. A study from Oregon State University in Corvallis suggests that "starchy" might be the sixth flavor, joining primary tastes salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami (savory).
According to researcher Juyun Lim, every culture has a major source of complex carbohydrate, and the idea that we can't taste what we're eating doesn't make sense.
"Complex carbohydrates such as starch are made of chains of sugar molecules and are an important source of energy in our diets. However, food scientists have tended to ignore the idea that we might be able to specifically taste them," says Lim. "Because enzymes in our saliva break starch down into shorter chains and simple sugars, many assumed we detect starch by tasting these sweet molecules."
For the study, researchers gave participants a range of different carbohydrate solutions containing long and short carbohydrate chains. As it turns out, the subjects were able to detect "starchy" flavors, even when they were given compounds that block the receptors on the tongue for making out sweet tastes.
However, starch does not meet all the requirements to be classified as a primary taste because researchers have yet to identify specific starch receptors on the tongue.