Scientists don’t know why we evolved to taste sour foods, but they recently figured out the mystery behind how we taste them. It’s pretty crazy.

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

When you eat something sour, your tongue is actually tasting protons. To understand that though, we first have to understand how the tongue tastes things to begin with.

Those little bumps on your tongue are called papillae, and located in the crevices of each papilla are your taste buds. Each of those taste buds contains clusters of sensory cells, and when a compound from your food comes in contact with them, it causes a chain reaction in nearby nerve cells, bringing the message all the way back to the brain.  

There, the message combines with the messages from your nose to create what we experience as taste. But with sour tastes, things happen a little differently. Foods that are “sour” are registered that way because they’re acidic. Citrus fruit has citric acid, vinegar has acetic acid, and most sour candies contain citric or malic acid.

When you eat these foods, the acids dissolve in your saliva and their hydrogen ions split off- these ions then make their way down to your little sensory cells. But instead of just activating a receptor at the edge of the cell, like what happens with sweet and savory flavors, the hydrogen ions actually enter the cell via specialized ion channels. Upon entry they set off that chain reaction that tells your brain it’s time to pucker up.

This video, "Scientists don’t know why we evolved to taste sour foods, but they recently figured out the mystery behind how we taste them. It’s pretty crazy. ", first appeared on seeker.com.

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