We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is the Connection between Saliva and Taste?

By Angela Farrer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Saliva and taste are connected because saliva secretions are needed to carry food molecules to the corresponding receptors in the taste buds. Normal saliva softens food so that it can be swallowed easily. It also breaks down the structures of different foods and releases these molecules. The tongue contains clusters of taste buds that pick up salty, sweet, bitter, and sour flavors. When a flavor molecule binds to a taste bud receptor, signals that identify each different flavor are sent to the brain.

The majority of healthy human saliva is made up of water, but it also contains important enzymes that dissolve the complex chemical structures of various foods. Saliva and taste both have key roles in the ability to identify various food textures such as grainy or smooth textures. An enzyme called salivary amylase helps break down starches from foods such as breads and rice, and scientific studies have shown that different people have varying levels of this enzyme in their saliva. One person with higher levels of salivary amylase will often have one perception of a certain food's taste and texture. Someone else with lower levels of this enzyme can possibly have quite different taste and texture perceptions of the same food.

An interaction of saliva and taste is also connected to the burning sensations that people feel in their mouths when eating very spicy foods such as peppers or certain sauces such as horseradish or wasabi. These kinds of foods register as hot and even painful because saliva acts as a catalyst between pain receptors throughout the mouth and molecules from food chemicals such as capsaicin found in chilli peppers. This catalytic action also makes the release of endorphins possible in the brains of people who like to eat these types of spicy foods. Sensitivities to these spicy tastes are usually considered hereditary.

Saliva and taste are linked to the nervous system as well as the sense of smell in order to register specific tastes whenever someone eats any type of food. A common sign of illness or injury affecting the ability to taste and smell is abnormal saliva production or thickness. Salivary glands can sometimes develop cysts from injuries to the sides of the face where the glands are located. Frequent respiratory infections and the development of benign nasal growths called polyps can also contribute to losses of taste even when saliva secretion is normal.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On May 11, 2014

@SarahGen-- No, we wouldn't. Saliva needs to break down the food in order for the taste buds to pick up flavors, which happens very quickly when we are eating.

You could actually do a small, basic experiment. Drink some water, stick out your tongue and put something salty on your dry tongue. You will notice that you don't taste anything. It's when the food mixes with the saliva that the taste receptors are able to bind to them. So you will taste the food after closing your mouth, mixing the food with your saliva and chewing it.

By SarahGen — On May 10, 2014

If we had no saliva, would we taste food at all then?

By literally45 — On May 10, 2014

The connection between saliva and taste is very interesting. I did not know that enzymes in saliva affect taste and the way we perceive different foods. Could this explain why some people prefer certain flavors over others?

For example, I love sweets whereas my husband likes sour and salty foods. I can't stand sour foods. Is this because of the enzymes in our saliva? And could the production of these enzymes be changed?

I mean there are many people who are type two diabetics because they love carbohydrates and sugary foods. If the enzymes in their saliva could be changed so that they dislike the taste of sweet foods, that would benefit them, wouldn't it?

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.