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There's a scientific reason why a pinch of salt makes things sweeter

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Ever wonder why salted chocolate and caramel taste even better than unsalted? Or why adding a pinch of salt to cookies makes them sweeter? A group of researchers has found evidence that it's because you have intestinal cells in your taste buds.

That's right - your intestines are full of sugar sensors, and some of them are in your mouth too. Scientists already knew that many human organs have sugar sensors, which are there to help process glucose and insulin in your blood. It turns out, however, that these sensors have a different job in your mouth. According to a release about the study:

An intestinal glucose sensor also found to be located in the sweet-sensitive taste cells may provide an explanation for another mystery of sweet taste: why just a pinch of table salt tastes sweet or salt added to baked goods enhances sweet taste. Known as SGLT1, this sensor is a transporter that moves glucose into the sweet taste cell when sodium is present, thus triggering the cell to register sweetness.


The upshot of the study is that our tongues are sensitive in ways we didn't realize before. Molecular neurobiologist Robert Margolskee, who worked on the study, said:

The taste system continues to amaze me at how smart it is and how it serves to integrate taste sensation with digestive processes.


Cellular physiologist Karen K. Yee, lead scientist on the study, said that knowing how our tongue's sugar sensors work could help scientists determine a way to limit sugar cravings.

Read the full scientific paper on PNAS