kind of a weird question, sorry, but i was wondering--is there a threshold at which our taste buds become overwhelmed? if i, say, put some supersweet compound in my mouth, would there be a point at which adding more compound would not increase the level of sweetness i perceive? i'm sure that if i experienced too much sourness or spiciness, my tongue would probably go numb, but what about sweetness and bitterness? and what is that amount? does it vary from person to person, or are people's opinions on different sorts of food just preferences, and the threshold at which they become unable to process more of a specific taste the same for everyone?

thank you. i hope this makes sense.

  • $\begingroup$ Have you done any research by yourself? $\endgroup$ – Ojasvi Jul 20 '20 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ no, i felt like i couldn't word my question such that a search engine would understand. $\endgroup$ – mye Jul 20 '20 at 14:44

Yes, there is a threshold of taste. According to this article

The taste system encodes information about the quantity as well as the identity of stimuli. In general, the higher the stimulus concentration, the greater the perceived intensity of taste. Threshold concentrations for most ingested tastants are quite high, however. For example, the threshold concentration for citric acid is about 2 mM; for salt (NaCl), 10 mM; and for sucrose, 20 mM. Since the body requires substantial concentrations of salts and carbohydrates, taste cells may respond only to relatively high concentrations of these essential substances to promote an adequate intake. Clearly, it is advantageous for the taste system to detect potentially dangerous substances (e.g., bitter-tasting plant compounds) at much lower concentrations. Thus, the threshold concentration for quinine is 0.008 mM, and for strychnine 0.0001 mM. As in olfaction, gustatory sensitivity declines with age. Adults tend to add more salt and spices to food than children. The decreased sensitivity to salt can be problematic for older people with electrolyte and/or fluid balance problems.


In fact, all of these tastes can be detected over the full surface the tongue. However, different regions of the tongue do have different thresholds. Because the tip of the tongue is most responsive to sweet-tasting compounds, and because these compounds produce pleasurable sensations, information from this region activates feeding behaviors such as mouth movements, salivary secretion, insulin release, and swallowing. In contrast, responses to bitter compounds are indeed greatest on the back of the tongue. Activation of this region by bitter-tasting substances elicits protrusion of the tongue and other protective reactions that prevent ingestion

And in most of the individuals, this threshold is same for both right and lefts parts of the tongue. Reference

Now as stated by the first article, taste threshold depends on the age of the individual. More interestingly, it also depends on the individual's state of mind, i.e. whether depressed or anxious.

Circumstances in which serotonin (5-HT) and noradrenaline (NA) are altered, such as in anxiety or depression, are associated with taste disturbances, indicating the importance of these transmitters in the determination of taste thresholds in health and disease.

Measurement of taste function in healthy humans before and after a 5-HT reuptake inhibitor, NA reuptake inhibitor, or placebo showed that enhancing 5-HT significantly reduced the sucrose taste threshold by 27% and the quinine taste threshold by 53%. In contrast, enhancing NA significantly reduced bitter taste threshold by 39% and sour threshold by 22%. Reference

Hence threshold value varies from substance to substance as well as from individual to individual.

Here is a good article giving threshold values of different chemicals in various food items.

Hope all your questions are solved :)

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    $\begingroup$ thank you so much!!!! $\endgroup$ – mye Jul 20 '20 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ @mye Welcome to Biology SE. You should always give an upvote atleast or accept the answer, if you are satisfied with the answer; so that it will encourage other users to answer your questions $\endgroup$ – Ojasvi Jul 21 '20 at 15:04

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