Recent Study Suggests That Our Tongues Can Smell Too


It has always been understood that tongues and noses have some connection.

That’s why chefs put so much effort into making the food smell ‘delicious’ too. Researchers always had a clue that both taste and smell work together in how we distinguish flavor. But there was no conclusive evidence that could link it to the surface of the tongue. Until now, that is.

A recent paper published in the Chemical Senses journal (dated April 24) comes with new evidence that smell and taste might be linked on the tongue surface.

Researchers working at the Philadelphian nonprofit research center- Monell Chemical Senses Centre grew human taste cells in a laboratory. And it was discovered that the cells had molecules similar to those found in olfactory cells.

Olfactory cells help us draw in the ‘smell’ of products and distinguish between them. When the tongue cells were tested with odor molecules, they responded just like olfactory cells. As if the tongue could smell.

As of now, the taste differentiation in our tongues was simply categorized as salty, bitter, sour, sweet and umami (savory). It is the first time that olfactory cells were found in taste buds. It could revolutionize how we categorize taste. However, olfactory cells have been found in other body parts before, including sperm cells, gut, and hair.

Mehmet Hakan Ozdener, one of the senior authors of this study, has mentioned that such a discovery would pave the way for more interesting researches on how smell and taste can be linked to a particular body part. Also, this would help them study more about the taste and odor stimuli in our tongue.

It looks like now chefs will have put in more effort to refine the smell of their signature dishes.