There are only four types of true tastes - sour, sweet, salt and bitter, each of which bind to a specific receptor molecule (Kalumuck, 2005). Taste is actually the weakest of the five senses (Your, 2004). Approximately 80 percent to 90 percent of what we perceive of as taste is actually due to our sense of smell (Kalumuck, 2005). This is because some scent molecules volatilize and travel up through the olfactory organs up a passage at the back of the throat and to the nose. Because we can only taste four different true tastes, it is actually the sense of smell that lets us experidnce the complex flavors we associate with different foods.
When the nose fails because of a cold, for instance, 80 percent of our ability to taste is lost (Taste, 2004). Loss of taste without loss of smell is rare, but a dry mouth can contribute to a loss of taste because taste buds can only detect flavor when food is dissolved in saliva. Damage to taste buds or to the cranial nerves that carry taste sensations to the brain can also account for loss of taste. The full sensory appreciation of food also involves its appearance, consistency, and temperature, which involves the senses of vision and sensation.
Everyone's tastes are different and they change as the person ages (Your, 2004). A baby has taste buds on the tongue, and also on the sides and roof of the mouth, making them very sensitive to different foods. As a person grows, taste buds begin to disappear, leaving them only on the tongue, and with aging, these remaining taste buds become less sensitive, decreasing the sense of taste.
Kalumuck, K. (2005). Your sense of taste. Retrieved Mar. 29, 2005 from:
Taste areas. (2004). Retrieved Mar. 29, 2005 from:
Your sense of taste. (2004). Retrieved Mar. 29, 2005 from: