Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Taste (07/15/10)
TITLE: The Nerve of It All
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There have been studies that indicate that taste buds are developed while baby is still in the womb. The baby’s first taste buds will appear at about eight weeks gestation and will continue to become more refined until around the third trimester. For a reason that no one can explain, except God himself, a fetus has many more taste buds than he’ll need after delivery, therefore some of the taste buds disappear before birth.
Did you know that we are born with 10,000 taste buds? On average, the human tongue has 2,000-8,000 taste buds. Taste buds contain the receptors for taste. They are located on the upper surface of the tongue, soft palate, upper esophagus and epiglottis. These small structures are called papillae; papillae are raised protrusions on the tongue’s surface and they are involved in detecting the five known elements of taste perception: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and savory (or umami). There are small openings on the surface of the tongue called taste pores, parts of the food dissolve in salvia and come into contact with taste receptors. These are located on top of the taste receptor cells that constitute the taste buds. The taste receptor cells send information detected by clusters of various receptors and ion channels to the gustatory areas of the brain by way of the seventh, ninth and tenth cranial nerves.
When there is damage to the brain as in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias; as well as head traumas, the sense of taste and smell are in diminished capacity or in some cases of extreme trauma and end-stage dementias, non-existent. It is interesting that in age-related sensory decline it is the sense of smell-rather than taste- that directly affects a person’s ability to taste or enjoy food (Greely, 1990). About 30% of persons between the ages of 70 and 80, and 65% of persons over the age of 80, experience problems with their sense of smell.
When there has been a loss of smell and taste many individuals try to compensate by adding too much salt or sugar to make food taste better, which can have a diverse impact on heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases. To enhance food aromas for older adults, herbs and spices are encouraged.
So when you nosh on a chocolate bar or a black bean burrito, the taste you enjoy is a process that was fashioned by design in your mother’s womb. God supplied everything we would need, and more.
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