A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down with some fancy tricks on your tongue, and your eyes.
Taste buds are clusters of up to 100 cells. Nerve fibers connect each bud to the brain.
Sugars, and some synthetic sweeteners, interact with two types of taste receptors on the tongue, according to a 2005 study published in the journal Current Biology.
Some artificial sweeteners interact with only one tongue receptor, which may explain why they don’t taste quite like the real sweet stuff. Researchers found that the sweetener sucralose, found in Splenda, interacts with both receptors.
The sweet-tasting buds do double duty as bitter-tasting buds. Chemicals in the same taste buds help us tell the difference between a bitter brussel sprout and a scoop of strawberry ice cream.
Scientists at Ohio State University identified a chemical messenger in taste buds called cholecystokinin that tells the brain that something bitter is on the tongue, while a different chemical, neuropeptide Y, signals the brain that something sweet is being eaten.
Sometimes, sweetness is all in the eyes.
A study of people who sipped O.J. of different shades of orange found the brightest juice tasted the sweetest.