You probably already know that your taste buds have something to do with your food preferences, but you’ll likely be surprised to learn how deeply those preferences are rooted in your body’s survival instincts…

For example, sniffing a chocolate doughnut will send a scent message through your nostrils to one part of your brain, and eating it will send a different type of scent signal to a different part of your brain. It is the scent message from eating that combines with taste to create flavor. However, according to Dr. Bartoshuk, the scent message from smelling with your nose is not involved with flavor at all (your brain knows the difference between the two)…

Taste buds go through a life cycle where they grow from basal cells into taste cells and then die and are sloughed away. According to Dr. Bartoshuk, their normal life cycle is anywhere from 10 days to two weeks. However, “burning your tongue on hot foods can also kill taste buds,” she says. “But they grow right back, which is why the ability to taste doesn’t diminish with age.” Though Dr. Bartoshuk notes that taste remains robust as we get older, the ability to taste bitterness does decline in women with the onset of menopause…

When you bite into a luscious red tomato, you’re interpreting a dizzying array of signals—physical, neurochemical, memory-based—that ultimately help you decide whether you like tomatoes, or what combination of the five fundamental tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami) comes through for you. (There’s growing support for the idea that fat is a distinct taste, too; other candidates include soapy and metallic. Spicy heat, on the other hand, involves a chemical short-circuit in our thermal detectors, and isn’t considered a taste.) …

Brain scans of perfumers have found that the olfactory parts of their brains actually grew more developed as they got older, not the other way around, as with most people. That suggests that actively differentiating aromas and seeking out new ones may help reverse the normal effects of aging on the sense of smell. You may, in other words, be able to teach yourself to get more flavor from food as you get older…

Myth:  Eating spicy food damages your taste buds.

Fact:  The substance capsaicin is found in spicy foods and works by binding to pain receptors in the brain, sending a hot, burning signal to the body. While they can be temporarily damaged by extreme spice or temperatures, taste buds grow back every two weeks, so it’s generally nothing to worry about…

15 thoughts on “I asked Google, how long do taste buds live?

  1. Ah, soapy. Cilantro. That is a polarizing herb. I think it’s genetic on whether a person perceives it as a fresh flavor rather than soapy. I don’t know that fat itself has a flavor, other than the flavor of what it was extracted from (olive, coconut, almond, cream, etc). It does somehow make things taste better – it carries flavor, and does have a distinct mouth feel. Butter doesn’t last long in my house! It’s the perfect combo of sweet and fat. I’d like to make sailboats of butter and navigate them directly into my mouth.

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    • I made Spanish rice last night using a can of tomatoes with chilpotle, which turned out to be way too spicy for my taste buds. Not just my tongue, but my whole mouth was burning. I tried adding ingredients, including more water, which just made a mush of the whole thing. Unfortunately, I had to throw it out, and I hate throwing away food.

      The burning effects of the chilpotle reminded me of strong toothpaste, but I didn’t find a specific mention of what toothpaste does to taste buds. Except that it’s full of chemicals, so it’s probably not a good thing. But no doubt it’s better to take care of your teeth than worry about what toothpaste does to your taste buds. And then there’s soda tongue, which is also chemically-induced…

      And now you know why I was asking Google about taste buds. 🙂


  2. As I read this, I am so bummed as I am fresh out of spicy salsa for my rice/quinoa and beans I made for dinner tonight. I love me some spicy! And, I think that some genius mositurizing company shoudl find a way to add capsaicin safely so that I could just use that. It will need an SPF factor too-and thegenius part comes in where it will only affect the body it is on, and not rub off on others who may graze by. You know what I mean! I need to wear a turtleneck everytime I have it on so the kids don’t end up with a burnt cornea. You rock, BTW!

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    • Do they make capsaicin patches? But that would be more limiting than being able to spread it over an entire area. I never had much luck with topicals, even had one specially made with Soma. And the lidocaine patches didn’t help very much, although that didn’t stop me from pasting them all over my body, including my face. 🙂

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