Scientists have discovered that the human tongue may be able to detect a sixth sense of taste. On top of being able to sense sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and savory (umami), the tongue can also recognize carbohydrates. Scientists in New Zealand conducted a study (full text is behind a pay wall), the results of which demonstrate that the brain reacts to carbohydrates in the mouth as if they had already been consumed.
In the study, participants' tongues were rinsed with one of three different fluids: One was sweet, the second was identically sweet with carbohydrates, and the third was not sweet and had no carbs. Participants were also asked to squeeze a sensor when simultaneously shown a visual cue. According to Science Mag, when the tongue was rinsed with the carbohydrate solution, the researchers "observed a 30% increase in activity in areas of the brain that control movement and vision." The results show that just by placing carbohydrates in a person's mouth — even before they are swallowed or ingested — physical performance is strengthened.
Scientists believe that this result is caused by our mouth's ability to sense that "additional energy in the form of carbs" is on the way. Science Mag also points out that this could explain why athletes who consume carbohydrates-loaded drinks appear to "perk up" far before the body has processed the carbs into energy. So this means that licking a Cronut is better than actually eating it, right?
· Carbohydrate in the Mouth Enhances Brain Circuitry [Elsevier]
· Tongue Has a Sixth Sense [Science Mag]
· All Science Coverage on Eater [-E-]