Monday, January 31, 2011
Orange Juice and Toothpaste
TWSF knows that some of our readers, myself included, like a little orange juice in the morning before begrudgingly heading off to work. We also know that some (hopefully most) of our readers brush their teeth in the morning. It can therefore be assumed that there are some readers out there who fall into the intersection of the orange juice and toothpaste venn diagram. It can further be assumed that there are an unfortunate few who fall into a subset of the intersection that consumes the two products in the wrong order and are rewarded with that gross orangepaste taste. The morning routine that I have fallen into has put me into the bad taste subgroup (I know better but I am just too lazy). After several mornings of foul tasting orange juice I decided to look into this little problem to see if there is anything that can be done to avoid the bitter OJ taste, aside from changing up my routine.
On their own, orange juice and toothpaste taste pretty good, but why in combination do they stomp on your pallet. As with many questions of interest to the common man, scientists are not sure what causes this phenomena because they are not entirely sure how taste works. Thankfully the taste scientists of the world have come to agreement on the most likely cause.
The human tongue tastes five general categories, sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami (meaty). Taste is actually an interaction between taste molecules in food and taste receptors on your tongue. Taste molecules of a certain shape will be received by a receptor of a similar shape.
These receptors can be manipulated, and in the case of toothpaste this is done by Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a foaming agent found in toothpaste that creates that toothpaste froth. In addition to foaming up your mouth, SLS also suppresses your tongue's sweet receptors and destroys phospholipids, fatty compounds that act as inhibitors on your bitter receptors. In essences SLS makes it harder for your tongue to taste sweet and easier for it to taste bitter. Add some OJ to this situation and your tongue picks up too many bitter and too few sweet taste molecules.
So next time you go to brush your teeth, make sure you drank any orange juice first, your taste receptors will thank you.