8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Tongue
These days, most of us know a great deal about the human tongue. That being said, there are many things you might not know about this wonderful muscle. In this article, we’ll reveal eight facts about the human tongue of which you might have been unaware and give you plenty of food for thought.
Taste Buds Aren’t Just For Tongues, and No, You Can’t See Them
We all learn at some point in childhood that your tongue has the taste buds, right? But the truth is that our entire mouth is studded with these little receptors. They exist on:
• Your palate
• Under your tongue
• Inside your cheeks
• In your throat
Each human being has between 2,000 and 10,000 of these. As well, contrary to popular belief, you can’t see your taste buds. Those bumps on your tongue are known as papillae—hair-like protrusions upon which your taste buds are located. Smaller still are taste cells, each of which detects either sweet or bitter flavors. There are about fifty to one hundred of these per taste bud.
Flavors and Your Reward System
The tongue is an important part of our survival mechanism. When we eat foods that were naturally scarce in our ancestral environment—such as fat, salt, and sweet things—our brains release a rush of feel-good chemicals like dopamine. However, research indicates that, if the sensation of these flavors becomes routine, the brain decreases the amount of dopamine released as a reward. Rather than being smart and keeping these treats rare, many of us respond by increasing the consumption of foods that contain these substances. Because, if a little is good then a lot is even better, right? This can lead to weight gain, as well as a diminished enjoyment of the foods we love to eat.
Stick Your Tongue Out
The same muscles responsible for your ability to stick your tongue out also help to keep your airway open during sleep when many of your motor functions are disabled. In fact, some researchers have linked tongues with a higher percentage of fat and less active muscles—there are a total of eight in your tongue—to a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is a possible correlation between overall obesity in patients and those who experience OSA.
Pulling Its Weight and Then Some
The record for the heaviest weight lifted by a human tongue is 27 pounds. Thomas Blackthorne, a resident of the UK holds the current title in the Guinness Book of World Records. But that doesn’t mean it’s the strongest muscle in the human body. An interesting article, posted via Huffington Post by author Sarah Klein, has set us straight on that one—the gluteus muscles exert more force, the cardiac muscle more endurance, and the jaw muscles are capable of producing more pressure per square inch.
Tongue Prints and Signs of Health
Because human tongues vary in length, width, and other physiological criteria, tongue prints are actually as unique as fingerprints. While that’s pretty interesting, it isn’t clear whether these patterns are heritable—or passed from parents to their kids. More likely than not, while tongue dimensions may be genetically traced, patterns displayed on the tongue aren’t. They’re more likely specifically developed in response to our environment, our nutrition, and even our immune systems. Your doctor can ascertain a number of things based on your tongue alone. Whether or not you’re getting enough iron, vitamins B and C, allergies to foods or pollen, and even negative reactions to medications will all manifest in your tongue, so just say “Ahh.”