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How much of our sense of taste is dependent on the sense of smell? Options
Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017 11:27:55 AM

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Sense of taste is dependent on sense of smell.

“To which of our senses are we most indebted for the pleasures of the table? To name the sense of taste in answer to this question would be quite as incorrect as to assert that we go to the opera to please our eyes. More incorrect, in fact, because many do attend the opera chiefly on account of the spectacle; whereas, in regard to gastronomic delights it is safe to say that at least two-thirds of our enjoyment is due to the sense of smell.” (Henry T. Fincks, [1], p. 680)

The sensation of flavor is actually a combination of taste and smell," said Tom Finger, a professor at the University of Colorado-Denver Medical School and chairman of the 2008 International Symposium on Olfaction and Taste, held last month in San Francisco. "If you hold your nose and start chewing a jelly bean taste is limited, but open your nose midway through chewing and then you suddenly recognize apple or watermelon."

That's because as you chew, you're forcing air through your nasal passages, carrying the smell of the food along with it. Without that interplay of taste and smell, you wouldn't be able to grasp complex flavors, Finger said. Instead you'd be limited to the basic taste sensations picked up chemically by the tongue: salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umami — a savory sensation frequently associated with the additive MSG.

Because of this connection, losing your sense of smell can end up being devastating. Food no longer tastes as good, and these eaters miss many scent-related emotional connections as well. For instance, studies have shown that people, particularly women, can identify the specific smell of their romantic partners, Finger said. And, because scents are often more novel than, for instance, shapes or other things you might see, scent often gets intertwined with our memories of places and events.

"It's the novel things we recall," said Richard Doty, professor and director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "So an odor similar to that of your grandmother's pantry might be more quickly associated with your memories of that place than a similar sight, which might be more generalized."

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