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Arbiter of Taste: Energy molecule transmits flavor to brain

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9:12am, November 30, 2005

As you sample all the treats that the holiday season has to offer, be thankful for adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP). New research suggests that this molecule, typically associated with processing energy in cells, plays a pivotal role in conveying information about foods' tastes to the brain.

When food hits the tongue's taste buds, cells there send chemical messages that stimulate nearby nerve fibers. These fibers, in turn, notify the brain of the distinguishing tastes: whether each food is sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or umami—the flavor of monosodium glutamate.

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