Foods we love: the pleasure also comes from the texture

What attracts us so much to chocolate or ice cream? Their taste? Yes, in part, but also and above all their texture. This is taken into account in the choice of our favorite foods, or that we consider as such. It is interesting to look at this very important sense that will determine the foods that we will prefer to buy and consume.

The detection of the smell and taste of food is made possible by the many sensory receptors located in the nose and tongue. These receptors appeared in the most primitive organisms, such as bacteria, and are used to analyze the immediate environment, to locate sources of food or danger.

In higher organisms endowed with a brain, this detection is completed by a complete analysis of the signal measured by specialized regions of the brain. For example, biochemical signals associated with effluvium from food are picked up by a tiny region of the nasal mucosa (about the size of a postage stamp) that contains over ten million endings. nerves capable of transmitting the information received to the brain. Thanks to the receptors present in this region of the nose, most of us are able to recognize about three thousand distinct smells! Although 85% of the perception of taste is due to this property of smell, the tongue also plays an important role in our food preferences by identifying five major types of distinct flavors: sweet, salty, sour (sour ), bitter and umami (proteins). This detection function is crucial, because it is not because a substance smells good that it is necessarily good for your health!

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The combination of nose and mouth therefore not only makes it possible to select substances compatible with health, but also to generate powerful olfactory sensations.

However, even if everyone’s senses detect more or less the same flavors, the interpretation of these flavors by our brain can cause opposite effects, ranging from pleasure in one to disgust in another. Taste is therefore a very relative sense, modulated by the cerebral cortex and strongly influenced by culture; it therefore varies enormously between individuals.

The texture of food plays an important role in our attraction to it

In addition to olfactory sensations, the texture of food also plays an important role in our attraction to certain foods. This more physical aspect of food taste comes from other parameters associated with consumption. For example, starchy foods are often associated with a certain stickiness that is liked by some, but hated by others.

Results obtained by American researchers suggest that this difference in perception is directly linked to the quantity of enzyme responsible for the degradation of starch in the saliva of individuals. This enzyme, salivary amylase, rapidly changes the physical properties of starch by breaking it down into simple sugars like maltose, which lowers its viscosity. For example, the sensation of chocolate or ice cream melting in the mouth is a direct consequence of changes in the consistency of starch due to the activity of this enzyme and contributes strongly to the attractiveness of these foods. .

The results of the study show that the amount of amylases present in saliva varies considerably between people and that individuals who present with high levels of amylase experience a faster and more significant decrease in the perception of the viscosity of the saliva. ‘starch. It is therefore likely that this increased activity influences the oral sensory properties of these foods and thus makes them more appealing.

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Whether or not you enjoy eating a given food is therefore the culmination of an extremely complex biological process!


Mandel AL et al. Individual differences in AMY1 gene copy number, salivary-amylase levels, and the perception of oral starch. PLoS One; 5: e13352.


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