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Gastronomic Neurochemistry: Discovering the World of Taste through the Lens of Science.

By Julia Haimovich, Accredited Practicing Dietitian.

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A deep understanding of our taste preferences is closely associated with physiological
mechanisms that include the role of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and
endorphins. These biochemical substances, embedded within the complex system of
neurotransmission, influence our mood, satisfaction, and perception of the taste of various

Dopamine is the pleasure and reward hormone.

Dopamine, known as the pleasure and reward hormone, can enhance our enjoyment of
sweet products. For example, chocolate stimulates the release of dopamine, eliciting
pleasant sensations and satisfaction. (2)

Serotonin plays a crucial role in mood regulation.

Serotonin, playing a crucial role in mood regulation, can influence our craving for salty
products. For instance, chips enriched with salt can help elevate serotonin levels and
improve our mood.

Endorphins are natural analogs of opioids.

The release of endorphins, natural analogs of opioids, upon consuming fatty products can
intensify our pleasure from them. For example, cheese, rich in fat, can evoke feelings of
satisfaction and joy. (3)

Thus, our taste preferences reflect a complex interaction between physiological processes
and chemical substances that regulate our mood and pleasure from specific products. This
deep dive into scientific factors expands our understanding of how we perceive and react to
the world of taste.

However, our taste preferences can also be strongly influenced by genetic and social

Heredity plays a significant role in shaping our taste preferences. Some studies indicate that
genes can influence our ability to perceive certain tastes, such as sweet, salty, bitter, and
sour. For example, some individuals may exhibit heightened sensitivity to specific tastes due
to genetic variations in taste receptors. (4)

Cultural, social, and learned aspects also play a role in shaping our taste preferences. For
instance, taste preferences may be formed in childhood based on what we see and
experience from parents, family, and cultural surroundings. Social situations, such as
interactions with friends and family traditions, can also influence what we consider
acceptable or desirable in terms of taste. (5)

In summary, human taste preferences are formed not only at the level of biochemical
processes in the body but also subject to the influence of genetic and social factors. This
complex interplay of biological, genetic, and sociocultural variables impacts how we perceive
and evaluate various taste stimuli in our lives.


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Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 17;18(18):9791. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18189791. PMID:
34574716; PMCID: PMC8468293.

Puri, S., & Lee, Y. (2021). Salt sensation and regulation. Metabolites, 11(3), 175.
Hadi, P. (2023). A review of global studies on emotional eating, hunger, and fast food
addiction. NeuroQuantology, 21(5), 2005.

Rohde, K., Schamarek, I., & Blüher, M. (2020). Consequences of obesity on the sense of
taste: taste buds as treatment targets?. Diabetes & Metabolism Journal, 44(4), 509-528.

Enriquez, J. P., & Archila-Godinez, J. C. (2022). Social and cultural influences on food
choices: a review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 62(13), 3698-3704.

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