How do taste buds work? (Thinkstock)
How do taste buds work?
Lexile

NARRATOR 1: You asked us, how do taste buds work?

Taste buds are arranged like the inside of an orange. Fifty to 150 cells are all lined up next to each other. Each of those cells has what's called a taste hair. It pokes out of the top.

The hairs are geared to tune into the presence of a particular chemical. And when they do, they send a signal to the brain. That says, hey, you're eating something sour, or sweet or whatever.

Thousands of taste buds are found. They aren't just in our tongues. They also are in the roofs of our mouths and in our throats.

We used to think that different tastes, like salty or sweet, could only be sensed by buds on specific areas of our tongues. But now we know that each bud has receptors for all five tastes. Like sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.

Combined with our sense of smell, taste buds help us survive. We steer clear of bitter tasting, poisonous and rotting food. Instead, we eat our nutrient-rich morsels of sweet, salty or savory goodness.

It's making me hungry just thinking about it. I mean, who's up for a spaghetti basket?

NARRATOR 2: What?

NARRATOR 1: For more stories like this, check us out everyday at smithsonian.com. Mm, spaghetti basket.

Critical thinking challenge: Why are tastes based on chemicals?


Assigned 45 times


COMMENTS (49)
  • Tiffany0307-yyca
    4/08/2015 - 09:23 p.m.

    Whoa. I think there are more than thousand taste buds in our mouths. Good thing taste buds are in our mouth. Just like the article said, we would never be able to survive without our taste buds. Eew! If we didn't have taste buds, I think that I would be eating rotten food everyday without noticing anything. Then we would get sick and all those weird sicknesses and diseases. Who knows what might happen to our bodies. I think that our taste buds are very, very precious to us. I wouldn't want to be that boy with the crunched up face above the article. He looks sick!
    Critical Thinking Challenge: Why are tastes based on chemicals?
    Answers: They are based on chemicals because you need the chemicals to digest and feel the flavor of what the food is.

  • lamplj-Nim
    4/10/2015 - 03:20 p.m.

    I like this article because i like sweets.

  • prairiej-Nim
    4/10/2015 - 03:21 p.m.

    My favorite taste is sour because it makes my mouth pucker.

  • whitec-Nim
    4/10/2015 - 03:22 p.m.

    My favorite taste is sour because it make my mouth feel weird.

  • aaronm-Nim
    4/10/2015 - 03:23 p.m.

    I love candy and oranges and its sweet and its good but not good for you

  • ZariyaB-Cla
    4/13/2015 - 12:21 p.m.

    Did you know that taste buds give you the oppertunity to finaly to taste something you never tasted before.
    Also did you know that taste buds also are helpful remember that.

  • BeatrizMundaca
    4/14/2015 - 11:03 p.m.

    I THINK THE CHIMICAL REACTION IS COUSED BY OUR SALIVA.
    I THINK TASTE BODS WORD IS VERY IMPRESSIVE BECAUSE SOMETIEMES PEOPLE IGNORE WOKK THAT MAKE OUR BOBY PARTS AND IT IS REALLY AMAZING LIKE PARTES SO SMALL LIKE TONUE AND THEIR TASTE BODS ARE TELL US KNOW THE THINGS WE EAT.
    IN THIS MOMENT WHEN I EATING I THINK "WOW MY TASTE BODS DO AN AMAZING JOB"

  • Prabhleen-Hor
    4/15/2015 - 01:54 p.m.

    My favorite taste is SWEET.I like to eat candys.I do not like SALTY!!!

  • 23GabriellaW
    4/17/2015 - 09:51 a.m.

    That is awesome to know this kind of information. The taste buds do a lot of work. I see it is hard work to be tasting.

  • AvaP-4
    4/24/2015 - 01:07 a.m.

    Our taste buds, are very similar to a food we eat, oranges! We have fifty to 150 taste cells all lined up on our tongue with taste hairs. This allows us to taste the five different tastes: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami. People used to believe that a specific part of our mouth could taste a specific taste, but we know now that we can taste any taste anywhere. This is so because of the tastebuds we also have on our throat and on the roof of the mouth. I think it's pretty cool that we have so many taste buds just tell us how some food tastes. However, I'm very grateful for them because without them, we wouldn't be able to distinguish different foods by taste.

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