Calcium Might Have Taste Humans Can Detect

Tweaking tongue receptors could encourage people to consume more of the vital nutrient

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 20, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- It may be time to add calcium to the types of tastes -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory -- that can be detected by humans, according to U.S. researchers.

They found that a taste for calcium exists in mice. Since mice and humans share many of the same genes, the finding suggests that people may also be able to taste calcium. If that's true, it could have a number of implications.

"People don't consume as much calcium as nutritionists would like, and one reason for this is that foods high in calcium don't taste good to many people. Tweaking its taste could encourage a calcium-deficient population to consume more of this key nutrient," Michael G. Tordoff, of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, said in an American Chemical Society news release.

"By understanding how calcium is detected in the mouth, we can either make it easier to consume by reducing its bad taste or even make pharmacological agents that make it taste better," Tordoff said.

He and his colleagues identified two receptors on the tongues of mice that are involved in tasting calcium. One is a calcium-sensing receptor called CaSR that has been found in the parathyroid gland, kidney, brain and gastrointestinal tract.

"We didn't know it was on the tongue before," Tordoff said.

The other receptor is T1R3, which plays a role in sweet taste. The discovery that T1R3 also plays a role in tasting calcium was "very unexpected."

Tordoff and his team were expected to presented the research Wednesday at the American Chemical Society's national meeting, in Philadelphia.

More information

The Society for Neuroscience has more about taste.

SOURCE: American Chemical Society, news release, Aug. 20, 2008
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