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Can you think of a scenario where people would like to check or correct their taste sensitivity?

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 06, 2020
Under what circumstances would a person check their sensitivity to taste? What are the reasons they would want to correct it (if there is an optimal taste sensitivity)?

Taste sensitivity is the minimum concentration at which a person is able to perceive a specific taste - sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. We usually check and correct our vision. Covid-19 has motivated some of us to check their sensitivity to smell. However, we do not usually undertake tests to check our sensitivity to taste. There are benchmark (normal) values for sensitivity to different tastes. Taste sensitivity is highly variable and adaptive (compared to vision). Sometimes, the sensitivity to taste drops during fever. However, we do not have regular testing and correction therapy for taste. Why do you think that is?
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Professional use of taste

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 06, 2020
People whose profession revolves around taste (cooks, sommeliers, etc) might want to sharpen their sense of taste
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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain7 months ago
Makes absolute sense. There are legit jobs as specialized organoleptic evaluators in the wine and cheese industry. Not just that, beverages and alcoholic drinks also have to go through an extensive tasting phase. If my job was to taste, I would surely want to keep my senses of taste (and smell as well) top-notch.
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J
J.7 months ago
Maybe sharpening the taste could cause the professionals to become more sensitive to lower concentrations of ingredients and thus, alter their judgment while grading or preparing food. Also, if we start changing the sensitivity, it would be necessary to develop a universal test for taste sensitivity (like for vision and hearing). Also, sharpening the taste should be done balanced (equivalently) for all receptor types, based on their sensitivity/reactivity/position. If it would be done unequally or not adequately balanced, it could mess up the ratios and alter the taste drastically. Just thinking...tell me if I am wrong.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic7 months ago
That's a good point. A professional taster who tweaked with their taste would thereafter be "out of sync" with the rest of the population.

Taste sensitivity correlates with obesity and alcohol and fat intake

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 07, 2020
In a cohort of 311 male and female participants, the relationship between sensory capabilities and body mass was observed to be age-dependent. Taste perception scores (taste sensitivity) were lower in subjects with a higher body-mass index (BMI) in the age group of fewer than 65 years. However, taste perception scores were higher in subjects with a higher BMI in the age group equal to or more than 65 years. Also, scores were highest in under reporters of body weight, independent of age. In another weight reduction study in adolescents, the increase in liking towards fruits and vegetables was associated with a decrease in BMI.

The relationship between taste sensitivity and obesity might be influenced by food intake. Alcohol and fats taste better to obese subjects and they show a higher intake of the same. Compared to participants with higher taste sensitivity, those with lower taste sensitivity perceived less negative (for example, bitter) and more positive (for example, sweet) sensations from alcohol. Children with higher taste sensitivity to 6-n-propylthiouracil, a marker of bitterness, showed lower acceptance of raw broccoli and American cheese. Those will low taste sensitivity reported more daily intake of fats. This effect was more significant in girls.

Change in taste sensitivity, therefore, can be used as a proxy for weight change.

[1]Simchen U, Koebnick C, Hoyer S, Issanchou S, Zunft H-J. Odour and taste sensitivity is associated with body weight and extent of misreporting of body weight. Eur J Clin Nutr [Internet]. 2006 Jun 25;60(6):698–705. Available from: http://www.nature.com/articles/1602371

[2]Monneuse M-O, Rigal N, Frelut M-L, Hladik C-M, Simmen B, Pasquet P. Taste acuity of obese adolescents and changes in food neophobia and food preferences during a weight reduction session. Appetite [Internet]. 2008 Mar;50(2–3):302–7. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0195666307003376

[3]Duffy VB, Davidson AC, Kidd JR, Kidd KK, Speed WC, Pakstis AJ, et al. Bitter Receptor Gene (TAS2R38), 6-n-Propylthiouracil (PROP) Bitterness and Alcohol Intake. Alcohol Clin Exp Res [Internet]. 2004 Nov;28(11):1629–37. Available from: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1097/01.ALC.0000145789.55183.D4

[4]Keller KL, Steinmann L, Nurse RJ, Tepper BJ. Genetic taste sensitivity to 6-n-propylthiouracil influences food preference and reported intake in preschool children. Appetite [Internet]. 2002 Feb;38(1):3–12. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0195666301904416

Taste sensitivity and aging

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Jamila
Jamila Oct 07, 2020
In a study conducted by Wiriyawattana and colleagues, they wanted to determine taste sensitivity in 3 different age groups: Young individuals (20–39 years), middle‐aged (40–59 years) and aged individuals (60–85 years). The researchers found that elderly individuals had a decreased sensitivity to umami, salty, sour, and bitter tasting agents. Their sensitivity to sweet items was not significantly impacted (apart from sucralose). During the study, the elderly individuals needed to have substantially higher concentrations of the compounds compared to young participants to recognise the taste. This isn't the first study to suggest that age can have a profound effect on taste sensitivity.

This research would be useful to food manufacturers that target the elderly specifically. They can use this information to make great tasting recipes that are attractive to the taste sensitivity of the elderly. Obviously, they shouldn't be adding double the amount of salt to the food because the elderly cannot taste it! That would be harmful to their health. They can try to pinpoint substitutes that could be used instead.

Also, I'm wondering from Wiriyawattana's study whether centenarians have altered taste sensitivity like the elderly participants. If there is a difference, it could be a huge marker for longevity!!!

[1]Wiriyawattana, Porntip, Suntaree Suwonsichon, and Thongchai Suwonsichon. "Effects of aging on taste thresholds: A case of Asian people." Journal of Sensory Studies 33.4 (2018): e12436.

[2]Yoshinaka, Masaki, et al. "Age and sex differences in the taste sensitivity of young adult, young‐old and old‐old J apanese." Geriatrics & gerontology international 16.12 (2016): 1281-1288.

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
That is a great idea, Jamila! I did some research. Centenarians show reduced taste sensitivity, lower than that observed in adults and the elderly. [1,2,3] This observation suggests a linear trend of reduction in taste sensitivity with age. I also checked the relation between caloric restriction and taste sensitivity since the centenarian physiology is similar to that of the calorie-restricted individuals. I found that short-term caloric restriction increases taste sensitivity in humans [4] but long-term caloric restriction decreases it. [5] Although the latter study was performed using rodents, it might give us some idea as to the relationship between taste sensitivity and longevity in humans. The perfect study would be the one that measures taste sensitivity in centenarians and their offspring (who share the same genes and a similar lifestyle) and then compares it with control adults of the same age as that of the offspring. References: [1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18653135/ [2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18653068/ [3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18653067/ [4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15028115/ [5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991138/
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Jamila
Jamila 7 months ago
Oo, thanks for the research! I assumed that the centenarians would have a better taste sensitivity than the elderly. So, as we age, our taste sensitivity reduces (even if you are centenarian). There are gender differences seen within the age groups. Elderly females have improved sensitivity for sour and bitter tastes than elderly males. [1] A similar case is seen in the other age groups too, where females have stronger-tasting capabilities. [2] Furthermore, genetic polymorphisms may have a role in taste sensitivity. SCNN1B-rs239345 had a significant association with salt sensitivity, and TAS2R38-rs713598 was associated with a bitter taste. [2] It would be interesting to see if the offsprings have a similar taste sensitivity to their parents (in the idea you suggest). Perhaps, researchers could also look for genetic polymorphisms in both the parents and offspring. References: 1.Uota, M., et al. "Factors related to taste sensitivity in elderly: cross‐sectional findings from SONIC study." Journal of Oral Rehabilitation 43.12 (2016): 943-952. 2.Barragán, Rocio, et al. "Bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami taste perception decreases with age: Sex-specific analysis, modulation by genetic variants and taste-preference associations in 18 to 80 year-old subjects." Nutrients 10.10 (2018): 1539.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
I agree. Genetic studies on centenarians and their offspring will also tell us how much of the change in taste sensitivity to different tastes is dictated by our genes and how much is adaptive. The treatment to optimize taste sensitivity will also depend on the results of the genetic study. The observation that taste sensitivity differs across age groups and between sexes can be, probably, explained by evolution. Since the sensitivity to different tastes differs across age groups and sexes also indicates that different tastes probably have physiological implications. For example, short-term starvation leads to an increased sensitivity for salty and sweet tastes. [1] This may be because what your body needs the most during starvation is carbohydrates (that are easy to digest and are a source of glucose - the most common energy source) and salts (since you lose salts through urine and sweat). Reference: [1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15028115/

SF scenarios

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Anja M
Anja M Oct 07, 2020
I named this "SF scenarios" due to the conceivable use in military purposes. Imagine a trained soldier professional with a nose of a trained dog and better. :) Smelling: poison, gunpowder, differentiation of a wide array of particles in the air that determine the weather, other conditions, etc.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
Or even drugs, but only for the narcotics unit :)
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
Great idea! Although, what does SF mean?
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Anja M
Anja M7 months ago
"Science fiction", so I guessed abbreviation was ok to use. :)

Using taste sensitivity as a proxy for detecting underlying diseases (diabetes)

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 07, 2020
Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients show an impairment of the taste sensation, mostly for the sweet sensation compared to other tastes. Currently, we do not know whether the decrease in sweet taste sensitivity in diabetics is a result of the alteration of glucose homeostasis or vice versa. However, it is observed that patients with T2DM crave high carbohydrate-containing foods, and they may, hence, be consuming more sugar than the non-diabetics, ultimately reducing their sensitivity to sweet taste.

The decrease in sensitivity or the increase in the taste threshold is associated with hyperglycemia (higher than normal blood glucose concentration). A group of researchers found that fasting blood glucose values above 140 mg/dL (normal fasting values are up to 100 mg/dL) induced a blood glucose-dependent increase in the detection and recognition of taste thresholds to sweetness, up to a value of 300 mg/dL. Significant differences were also observed in the detection and recognition of taste thresholds between normoglycemic and hyperglycemic diabetics, in terms of their HbA1C values. Furthermore, differences in taste sensitivity were also useful in distinguishing between normoglycemic, pre-diabetic, and diabetic populations. On the contrary, a recent study demonstrated a very low specificity of HbA1C (a biomarker of the severity of hyperglycemia) when compared to an oral glucose tolerance test for identifying pre-diabetes. HbA1C is usually used to diagnose diabetes and it is also used to decide the medication regime. Taste sensitivity may serve as a better complementary or a supplementary marker.

[1]Lawson WB, Zeidler A, Rubenstein A. Taste Detection and Preferences in Diabetics and their Relatives. Psychosom Med [Internet]. 1979 May;41(3):219–27. Available from: http://journals.lww.com/00006842-197905000-00005

[2]Chochinov RH, Ullyot GLE, Moorhouse JA. Sensory Perception Thresholds in Patients with Juvenile Diabetes and Their Close Relatives. N Engl J Med [Internet]. 1972 Jun 8;286(23):1233–7. Available from: http://www.nejm.org/doi/abs/10.1056/NEJM197206082862303

[3]Khobragade RS, Wakode SL, Kale AH. Physiological taste threshold in type 1 diabetes mellitus. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol [Internet]. 56(1):42–7. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23029963

[4]Gondivkar SM, Indurkar A, Degwekar S, Bhowate R. Evaluation of gustatory function in patients with diabetes mellitus type 2. Oral Surgery, Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endodontology [Internet]. 2009 Dec;108(6):876–80. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1079210409006210

[5]Yu JH, Shin MS, Kim DJ, Lee JR, Yoon S-Y, Kim SG, et al. Enhanced carbohydrate craving in patients with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabet Med [Internet]. 2013 Sep;30(9):1080–6. Available from: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/dme.12209

[6]Bustos-Saldaña R, Alfaro-Rodríguez M, Solís-Ruiz M de la L, Trujillo-Hernández B, Pacheco-Carrasco M, Vázquez-Jiménez C, et al. [Taste sensitivity diminution in hyperglycemic type 2 diabetics patients]. Rev Med Inst Mex Seguro Soc [Internet]. 47(5):483–8. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20550856

[7]Wasalathanthri S, Hettiarachchi P, Prathapan S. Sweet taste sensitivity in pre-diabetics, diabetics and normoglycemic controls: a comparative cross sectional study. BMC Endocr Disord [Internet]. 2014 Dec 13;14(1):67. Available from: https://bmcendocrdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6823-14-67

[8]Vlaar EM, Admiraal WM, Busschers WB, Holleman F, Nierkens V, Middelkoop BJ, et al. Screening South Asians for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes: (1) comparing oral glucose tolerance and haemoglobin A1c test results and (2) comparing the two sets of metabolic profiles of individuals diagnosed with these two tests. BMC Endocr Disord [Internet]. 2013 Dec 25;13(1):8. Available from: https://bmcendocrdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6823-13-8

Improve taste sensitivity

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Deru Xu
Deru Xu Oct 13, 2020
Adam Anderson, a professor of human development at Cornell University and senior author of the study, said: "By using some new techniques to analyze fine-grained activity patterns, we found that a specific part of the island cortex (the cerebral cortex hidden behind the neocortex) exhibits different tastes", the results were published in the journal Nature Communications. Under normal circumstances, the elderly have reduced taste sensitivity or even loss of taste. For some people who like food, this is a pain. I think it is possible to design a comparative test to verify the difference between the cerebral cortex of people with low taste sensitivity or even loss of taste and to find a way to restore taste. Is it possible in the future for the elderly to enjoy the ultimate delicacy from food?

[1]Junichi Chikazoe, Daniel H. Lee, Nikolaus Kriegeskorte, et al. Distinct representations of basic taste qualities in human gustatory cortex. Nature Communications,2019, 10(1):646-664.

Update: AI-powered "electric nose" sniffs the freshness of meat

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J
J. Nov 11, 2020
A few days ago, scientists from the Nanyang Technological University developed a technology that mimics the mammalian nose .

How does it work?
It consists of a "barcode" that changes color in reaction with gases from the meat decay.
Barcode has 20 chitosan-cellulose derivatives loaded with different dyes. Dyes react with nitrogen-containing meat-decay compounds and gradually convert colors (e.g. from yellow to blue). The result is a unique 20-bar color pattern.

The user then reads the barcode using the AI-powered smartphone app which determines the state of the meat (fresh, less fresh, spoiled) using an international standard that determines meat freshness.

Using a novel deep convolutional neural network AI algorithm, they predicted the meat freshness with 98.5%accuracy, compared to the 61.7% accuracy of the standard e-nose algorithms.

Application
Since the "barcode" changes color in a timely manner, it can "track" the amount of decay gases and thus, report on meat freshness. Integrating such barcodes on meat packaging, consumers would have a much more precise measurement of the meat freshness than "Best Before Date". Not only they would know exactly what they buy, but they would also know when to throw the meat that stayed in the fridge for weeks.

[1]https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.202004805

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni6 months ago
I like the idea you are hinting at - the "electric tongue"! For an AI, taste or smell would be different at the level of the sensors used. To sense odors, as you have suggested, sensors that can sense the molecules in the air are needed. For taste, the sensors should be in contact with the food surface. With touch, there can be sensors that can identify the texture, hardness, and similar properties along with the flavor that can give more comprehensive data on the quality of the foodstuff.
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J
J.6 months ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni You developed the idea in a direction I was planning to go! If an AI app can read "barcodes" that define the freshness of the meat, I am sure we can figure out how to evaluate food freshness using taste.

People infected with SARS-Covid19 had a symptom of losing the sense of smell. That means that if they had meat in the fridge, their smell wouldn't smell the decay. What if we had these barcodes to detect how fresh is the meat?

What if we had barcodes that determine how fresh is the food, how spicy is the sauce or similar?! Developing "electric tongue" could be a way how to generalize tastes and find a standard "strength" or "specificity" of a tongue. Restaurants would like to implement these kinds of grades or scales for their meals to properly prepare their food identically every time or to attract specific customers.

Taste doesn't seem that essential

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 06, 2020
When compared to vision, taste doesn't seem that essential. It might have been more crucial in the past where it could make a difference between distinguishing an edible plant from poisonous. Nowadays this isn't that likely to come into play.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic7 months ago
Smell complements taste. You actually smell something before you taste it. It seems like taste is the least important sense

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General comments

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic7 months ago
What motivated you into thinking about this?
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
Researchers have been conducting taste threshold assessments to predict the onset of different diseases. If testing for say diabetes is based on taste sensitivity, it may be taken up in clinics and also in DIY testing kits, since it is a non-invasive method. Altered taste sensitivity might also motivate a person to perform a thorough check-up for underlying diseases. Reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4138595/
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic7 months ago
Have you ever played with "miracle fruit" Synsepalum dulcificum? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synsepalum_dulcificum It's pretty amazing. You chew it for a minute. For the next 5-10 minutes everything sour tastes extremely sweet. A lemon tastes better than a mango for example:) Might be useful for research