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Scientists Have Discovered Why Bread and Chips Are So Addictive

New research from Oregon State University suggests that humans can detect a sixth “starchy” taste.
Photo via Flickr user stu_spivack

Sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami are the five primary tastes detected by human palates. But scientists could be about to add a sixth sense to that list—one that's less "I see dead people" and more "I see sourdough."

New research from Oregon State University has found that humans can detect the taste of complex carbohydrates, found in bread, pasta, and potatoes. They've labelled the new taste "starchy"


So, you can blame the carb coma on your taste buds.

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The researchers gave 22 participants liquids with different levels of dissolved carbohydrates and asked them to rate how each one tasted. Speaking to New Scientist, one of the study's co-authors and food scientist Juyun Lim said: "They called the taste 'starchy.' Asians would say it was rice-like, while Caucasians described it as bread-like or pasta-like. It's like eating flour."

Not sure we'll be binging on a bag of self-raising anytime soon, though.

Lim added that study goes against previous scientific thought that humans taste complex carbohydrates when "enzymes in our saliva break down starch into shorter chains and simple sugars," therefore tasting a sweet flavour—like when you chew on bread for ages and it starts to taste sweet.

However, in the second part of the Oregon research—which saw participants given a compound called lactisole, known to block sweet receptors on the tongue—they were still able to detect the floury, starchy flavour. Lim concluded that the research "is the first evidence that we can taste starch as a flavour in its own right."

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But starchy isn't going to be indoctrinated into the taste hall of fame just yet. Until scientists can identify which receptors on the tongues are triggered when people eat complex carbohydrates, it won't be classed as a primary taste.

In the meantime, crisps anyone?