A sweet pie, spicy nachos, flavourful curries or cheesy pizzas, no matter what your favourite food is and what kind of taste you love the most, surely there is one thing that’s common. Your tongue! A part of your body that not just helps taste all the amazing flavours of the world but has some other functions as well. We all use our tongues to eat, speak and to swallow. Let us take some time to learn about some interesting and amazing facts about this organ with Dr. Meenu Sharma, Associate Professor, Physiology, Indira Gandhi Medical College Shimla.
#1. Tongue prints are unique
From opening phone locks to punching attendance via biometric systems, we all are well versed with the importance of thumb prints and their property of being unique and different. What if we tell you that just like your thumb, your tongue possesses the same property as well.
Image Credits- Forensics Blog
Also Read: Tongue Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Similar to the thumb impression, every individual’s tongue impression is also unique. Your tongue can be a good identification tool which would be even more difficult to forge as it is protected inside your mouth. Well it's not a joke as researchers around the globe are actually working upon the ways to use tongue as a reliable authenticator.
#2. Tastes buds are meant to keep you alive
Well if you think that sweet, spicy, sour and bitter are the only tastes that your tongue can sense then this is an eye opener for you. The tongue of an average adult consists of 2000 to 4000 taste buds and they are present all over the tongue. These taste buds are responsible for the way we perceive different tastes. Although the main function of these taste buds is not to provide different kinds of tastes but to help you detect if the food you are consuming is safe or not. These taste buds actually help humans to sense if the food is poisonous or rotten so it can be spitted out before ingesting.
That's not it, these taste buds also renew themselves every two weeks.
#3. The white bumps on your tongue are not actually the taste buds
If you are thinking that the white bumps on your tongue that you see while standing in front of the mirror are your taste buds then here's the truth. These white bumps are not exactly the taste buds but are known as papillae. These papillaes are home to a group of taste buds and hence it is not possible to see individual taste buds with naked human eyes.
Taste buds are not the end and each one of these have around 50-150 receptors each. These receptors present on your taste buds, inside the papillaes, on your tongue are responsible for differentiating between various tastes.
#4. The color of your tongue has a story to tell
If you think that all tongues are the same then you might be wrong. Different people have different colors of tongues and these colors can spot the light on your health condition. A bright red colored tongue as shown in the cartoons is not what you want. The color of your tongue can actually be an indication of serious health issues.
Image credits- 3Dnatives
If the color of your tongue resembles any color other than pink then it's a warning sign that something is going wrong with your body.
- A bright red colored tongue is an indication of vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency.
- If your tongue looks whitish or has white patches over it then it can be a sign of yeast infection, leukoplakia, and oral thrush which can eventually lead to a precursor cancer.
- Painful bumps or blisters on the tongue can be caused due to ulcers, canker sores or be a sign of oral cancer
- A hairy black tongue is an indication of bacterial growth or can be due to chemotherapy, diabetes or the consumption of antibiotics.
#5. It is not the strongest muscles
Go and tell that science teacher that she was wrong, who taught that tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body. Tongue is not a single muscle but a group of 8 different muscles which combine to form an organ. This group of muscles is so flexible that it can freely move, roll and allows you to produce sounds through it. One thing that makes the tongue so flexible is that it works without the support of the skeletal system and hence there are no bones attached.
Don’t believe us? Try it on your own by rolling it, retracking it to the back of your mouth, sticking it out, moving it to the sides and even tucking it back. This organ is surprisingly so flexible that it can even change its shape to a point.
#6. Your tongue is not the only place that can sense the taste
Have you ever tried one of those challenges where your nose is held and you are asked to explain the taste of a food item? Well whoever came up with the idea of this challenge surely knew a lot about the taste buds and their positioning. Although our tongue contains most of the taste buds in our body, that's not the only place blessed with the presence of these taste receptors. Other than the tongue, your nose, sinus, the flap of cartilage at the back of your mouth known as the epiglottis and the upper part of the esophagus also consists of a few taste buds.
Surprisingly this is not it and some more taste buds are present in infants and young children. These taste sense cells are present in the mucous membrane of the cheeks and lips.
#7. That tongue can gain a few grams too
Image Credits- YouTube
Your belly is not the only one that can gain fat, but your tongue is a contender as well. It is a less known fact that a human tongue can also increase its volume due to the high fat percentage it has. As this organ is a group of muscles that contains a lot of fat. Some studies have shown a direct correlation between obesity and fat tongue volume. If you are thinking that what would be the harm of having a fat tongue as it wouldn’t show so then you are absolutely wrong. People with a fat tongue are at a high risk of suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea or obstuctive sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder which is commonly found is obese adults where they repeatedly start ans stop breathing while sleeping.
Reviewed by Dr. Meenu Sharma, Associate Professor, Physiology, Indira Gandhi Medical College Shimla.
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