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Why olive oil's quality is in the cough

Compound in top-notch presses tickles taste sensors in the throat

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5:00pm, January 18, 2011

To identify a particularly good olive oil, connoisseurs take a slurp and wait for a curious burning sensation in the throat. In a new study, researchers uncover the reason for this odd practice: Sensor molecules found mainly in the human throat — but not the mouth — latch on to a chemical found in superior olive oils. The results provide a scientific basis for the age-old custom of rating superlative extra-virgin olive oils on a scale of one, two or three coughs.

“When you can come up with a very clear and simple explanation for something like this, it’s really gratifying,” says neuroscientist Craig Montell of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, who was not involved in the study.

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