Humans rely heavily on both their sense of smell and taste when eating and enjoying food. As food is being chewed, some molecules found within the food are released into the mouth and into the nasal passages as air is exhaled. These molecules stimulate various odorant receptors in the olfactory epithelium concurrently with the stimulation of gustatory receptors in the tongue. This combinatorial stimulation allows the individual to both taste and smell the food he or she is eating, which contributes to a greatly increased sensory experience.
This experience is diminished when the nasal passages are blocked, either due to mucus plugs during a cold, or physically blocking the nasal passage by holding the nostrils shut. This diminished olfaction contributes to the lack of perceived “taste” in most foods during a cold. Interestingly enough, chicken noodle soup continues to taste good (albeit subjectively) despite the clogging of odorant receptors during a cold. It has been hypothesized that the fat content in the soup, along with the texture of the soup, results in a pleasurable gustatory experience regardless of the absence of olfaction. In a study conducted by Mount Sinai researchers in Miami, the effects of chicken noodle soup on airflow and mucus flow in the noses of 15 volunteers was examined. The volunteers either drank cold water, hot water, or chicken noodle soup. The following table shows results similar to those in the study:
Average air flow (L/min)Average mucus flow (mL/min)
Cold water250
Hot water2, point, 454
Chicken noodle soup2, point, 658
How do pheromones differ from standard odor molecules?
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