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A Newly Discovered Sixth Taste Explains Your Love of Carbs

Scientists just identified “starchiness" as a reason for your carb addiction
Classic Ragù alla Bolognese
Photo: Tasting Table

Move over, umami. There’s a new taste in town that’s just as satisfying and addictive. It also explains why humans love carbs so much. They’re calling it “starchiness.”

Professor Juyun Lim of Oregon State University published a study in the Chemical Senses journal that claims humans are able to detect starchiness in food, which means it deserves a place at the taste table. First, there were four tastes: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Then umami blew everyone out of the water. Could starchiness now join the ranks?

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After giving different carbohydrate solutions to a group of volunteers, Lim concluded that her subjects could detect starchiness. “They called the taste ‘starchy,’” Lim says. “Asians would say it was rice-like, while Caucasians described it as bread-like or pasta-like. It’s like eating flour.”

As Lim argues, “Every culture has a major source of complex carbohydrate. The idea that we can’t taste what we’re eating doesn’t make sense.”

Though Lim has proved that starch is recognizable, until she and her fellow researchers can identify the exact tongue receptors that trigger a response in the brain after eating carbs, starchiness won’t officially qualify as a sixth taste. Where do we sign up for unlimited pasta eating to help with this research?

In the name of science, make these carb-loaded recipes:
• Pasta e Fagioli
• Skillet-Baked Pasta with 5 Cheeses
• Spaghetti alla Gricia

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