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The 5 types of flavors, and where are their receptors in the language

The 5 types of flavors, and where are their receptors in the language

April 16, 2021

Taste and taste are words that evoke pleasure and wellbeing , that speak to us of generally positive perceptions and experiences that our organism allows us and facilitates in the day to day. And they are words associated with feeding, eating.

Feeding and nourishing is fundamental for our survival, but the truth is that the different elements have different compositions and chemical properties that both smell and taste are able to perceive. And we have organs with specific receptors for these properties, something that allows us to perceive different types of flavors.

Throughout this article we will mention The main types of flavors exist .


  • Related article: "Sense of taste: its components and operation"

The sense of taste and taste

Before commenting on the existence of different types of flavors, it is necessary to analyze first what a flavor is and where it comes from. We call flavor to the perception by the organism of the chemical properties of an object or food which is linked to the sense of taste. So the taste itself is the perception that allows this sense: just as sight allows us to see images and hearing to capture sounds, in the case of taste we catch tastes.

Physiologically, the perception of taste is due to the action of certain receptors called gustatory buttons, which are found in the numerous papillae that are located mainly in our tongue (although there is also part of the palate and pharynx).


These receivers they are activated when a substance with certain chemical properties reaches them , which will generate a response that will later be transferred to the nerve pathways and after being processed will be identified with the taste-

Although we generally associate taste merely to pleasure, the truth is that being able to perceive them can mean the difference between life and death, being of vital importance for survival. And is that thanks to the sense of taste and taste perception of food we can detect the chemical properties of what we eat and predict whether or not it may be negative for our survival or on the contrary it favors it.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Psychology of food: definition and applications"

Types of flavors

As mentioned above, our sense of taste allows us to detect a certain variety of flavors thanks to the recipients that we have in our language (and part of the palate). Mainly and until now, five basic flavors have been found that our body is able to capture.


1. Sweet

The sweet taste is one of the most basic and relevant for both humans and other species, being one of the first flavors to be perceived and one of the most often seek most living things .

This flavor is generally associated with hydrocarbon compounds such as sugars, and it is generally considered that most receptors of this flavor are found on the tip of the tongue.

Likewise, it is also one of the flavors most associated with the smell, the perception of this flavor and its intensity being easily altered depending on the aroma of the food in question. Generally, at least in humans it is usually one of the preferred flavors throughout life, especially in childhood and in old age.

2. Salty

The second of the basic flavors is the so-called salty flavor. It is a reaction to the detection of sodium chloride and other salts in what we put in our mouths , and that is essential because it helps us look for foods that help regulate the electrolyte balance of our body and maintain homeostasis.

In fact, there is the so-called salt appetite linked to the search at a biological level of the regulation of this need. It usually begins to become increasingly relevant and sought by the human being as we grow and mature, and its recipients they are located mainly in the bands of the tip of the tongue .

3. Acid

This flavor is usually linked to the sour, associated with food in poor condition. This flavor comes from substances that are, as indicated by the name of flavor, acids, and that could have some danger to the body . That is why it is usually unpleasant and avoided for most people, at least in the early stages of life.

However, they also help regulate the pH of our body, their perception being linked to the electrical charge of the molecules that come into contact with their receptors (apparently their channels are sensitive to the concentration of protons in their molecules).

It is present in foods as relevant as citrus. Interestingly, also seems to be linked to the sense of balance , the type of canal (OTOP1) being related to its perception also in the vestibular system. Its main receptors are found in the most posterior bands or sides of the tongue, close to the palate and pharynx.

4. Bitter

This fourth basic flavor is also another of the most relevant and of the first to be possessed, given that it has the peculiarity that It is mostly unpleasant for the human being and usually warns us of being in bad food or with toxic potential. However, many people like some foods that have this type of flavor, including beverages such as coffee. It is usually generated by inorganic salts.

The perception of this taste is important throughout life, and generally the foods that we like come to do so through a habituation process in which initially we find it unpleasant. The majority of receptors of this taste do sit in the inner part of the tongue, in its medial part.

5. Umami

The types of flavors recognized as such at the traditional level, and in fact those that most of us learn during formal education, are the previous four. However, in recent years a new flavor has been discovered which even has specific receptors in the language.

We are talking about the umami flavor, whose translation would be approximately "tasty / delicious" and which to this day has entered into the classification of basic flavors. The perception of this flavor is linked to the effect of glutamic acid or monosodium glutamate. It is found in many products, including meat, sauces (usually used as an enhancer, in fact) and cheeses. It is considered that the recipients of this flavor are distributed throughout the language, on its surface.

Two other flavors proposed and not flavors

The flavors officially accepted as such are the ones mentioned above, although there are others types of flavors proposed and that are in a state of research .

Starchy: the flavor of starch and flour

Another possible taste that has been investigated in universities such as Oregon has not yet gone from being a theoretical budget, not having been found at the moment (it is under investigation) a specific receptor. This flavor is derived from the perception of glucose oligomers , which can be detected even when the candy receptors are blocked.

It is about the starchy, a possible sense of taste linked to the perception of starch, starch and flour products such as bread, pasta or rice , and that according to the experiments would be perceived differently depending on the culture and the type of food we use.

Fatty taste

Probably most of us will have noticed at some point the taste of the fat of a piece of meat, being something that some people consider unpleasant while for others it is a pleasure.

And a few years ago it seems to have been found that at least the human being has a receptor that detects the acids of fats (although it is still under investigation since it is not known exactly how the information coming from them is processed).

This flavor would be a response to the detection of food lipids, which can be detected by itself (for example in fried foods), although it is usually linked to the perception of other flavors. Usually by itself it usually manifests as similar to bitter. Interestingly, it seems that those who have less ability to detect it tend to be more prone to obesity.

A non-taste: the spicy and the pleasure of pain

Although when we talk about flavors we usually think of the first four we have mentioned (sweet, salty, sour and bitter), many people come to think of the possibility of considering the spicy among them. And is that spicy food has been part of the gastronomy of a lot of cultures Throughout history, it is not uncommon to hear about a food having a spicy taste or taste.

However, the truth is that the existence of a spicy taste is not considered as such, given that the sensation of itching produced by a food is not a perception of the chemical properties that give the taste to a food but, in fact, , is a perception between thermal and pain. Spicy does not have a specific receptor, but its perception is due to the release of capsaicin and other components, which generate that the receptors of the tongue raise their temperature in such a way that they generate a stinging or itching sensation, that what we perceive as hot spicy.

Bibliographic references:

  • Castillo, T. (2017). The types of flavors: sweet, bitter, salty, acid and umami.The Food Street Journal. Bon viveur. [On-line]. Available at: //www.bonviveur.es/the-food-street-journal/los-tipos-de-sabores-dulce-amargo-salado-acido-y-umami.
  • Drewnowski, A .; Henderson, S.A .; Driscoll, A. & Rolls, B.J. (nineteen ninety six). Salt taste perceptions and preferences are unrelated to sodium in adults healthy adults. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 96. pp. 471-474.
  • Lapis, T.J .; Penner, M.H. & Lim, J. (2016).Human can taste glucose oligomers independent of the hT1R2 / hT1R3 sweet taste receptor. Chemical Senses, 41 (9): 755-762.
  • Lindemann, B., Ogiwara, Y. & Ninomiya, Y. (2002). The discovery of umami. Chemical Senses, 27 (9): 843-844.
  • López, N.C. (2014) The taste for salty taste. Perspectives in Human Nutrition, 16: 99-109.
  • Martínez, O.L .; Morales, R. and Orfilia, M. (2002). Sensory and molecular theory of sweet taste. Vitae, 9 (1): 15-26.
  • Russell, S.J. & Costanzo, A. (2014). Is fat the sixth taste primary? Evidence and implications Flavor, 4: 5. BioMedical Central.
  • You, Y.H .; Cooper, A.J., Teng, B .; Chang, R.B .; Artiga, D.J .; Turner, H.N .; Mulhall, E.M .; Ye, W .; Smith, A.D. & Liman, E.R. (2018). An evolutionarily conserved gene family encodes proton-selective ion channels. Science, 359: 1047-1050.

How Your Tongue Works (April 2021).


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