Information for Healthcare Professionals
The ‘Mineral Test Kit’
The ‘Mineral Test Kit’ provides you with diluted mineral concentrates that contain the ions of eight different essential minerals so that your body can determine which it needs, and which it does not, using the elegance of the body’s innate wisdom linked to your sophisticated sense of taste.
On the subject of Taste
How we observe and relate to the world around us, whether through our visual cortex with its complex assimilation of photons, or our auditory systems, via vibrations moving through the medium of our environment as sound, our body is the highly sophisticated software interface for a biological chorus of matter and timing.
Taste and smell, the olfactory and gustatory responses of the body reign supreme in two developmental areas: Our ability to taste and smell are the oldest senses in the primary cluster of touch, as compared to sight and hearing which provide warnings of a possible touch; and together taste and smell are the gatekeepers to the biomass that feeds, nourishes, and balances all other senses and responses to life.
1% of Human DNA is dedicated to Taste & Smell
Our genetic programming material, our DNA, devotes a full 1% of total gene sequencing to the senses of smell and taste, equal to the amount spent on the immune systems in the human and primate body. The importance of this should not be underestimated, we commit as much genetic energy to systems that guide our health as we do to the grand design of that complex system of immune chemicals which defends our wellbeing!
If indeed, as research suggests, taste and smell are the gatekeepers of biologic wisdom in nourishment, what clues do we respond to for optimal performance and well being?
How do we interface with this ancient wisdom that is at once a core protector and nourishment director for our physical being?
Could taste, and smell, be that interface?
Animal studies show that when deficient in a mineral, the animals naturally consume more of that mineral1.
Indeed, in rats, it was shown that calcium deficiency heightened the internal neural responses to calcium. The researchers recorded electrophysiological responses of the chorda tympani nerve of calcium-replete and calcium-deprived rats. Their findings raise the possibility that changes in calcium status influence the perception of calcium, which, in turn, influences calcium intake2.
With regard to magnesium, when rats were deprived of this essential mineral they had an increased compensatory appetite for magnesium. The deprived rats preferred the solution that ameliorated their deficiency! The greater the deficiency, the greater the hunger!
The rapid expression of magnesium appetite suggests that it depends in part on innate, gustatory factors. The need was connected to more than suggestion or awareness, in that the need had drive and focus3.
These taste induced balancing behaviours observed in animal models suggest more than just a repletion mechanism guided by the stomach, they suggest an even more elegant feedback loop that reaches out into the Autonomic Nervous System and throughout the entire body.
So, just how deeply is the primary taste mechanism associated with Autonomic Nervous System? The hedonic (pleasure principle) dimension of the taste sensation plays a crucial role in the control of many taste-mediated responses related to food ingestion or rejection. The purpose of this human study was to evaluate the emotional reactivity associated with each primary taste (sweet, salty, sour and bitter) through analysis of the variations of autonomic nervous system (ANS) parameters.
Thirty-four healthy non-smoker volunteer subjects (17 males and 17 females, mean age = 28 years) participated in the experiment. Taste stimuli were solutions of 0.3 M sucrose (sweet), 0.15 M NaCl (salty), 0.02 M citric acid (sour) and 0.00015 M quinine sulfate (bitter).
Evian mineral water was used as the diluent and control (neutral taste). Throughout the test, five ANS parameters (skin potential and skin resistance, skin blood flow and skin temperature, and instantaneous heart rate) were simultaneously and continuously recorded.
Results of the ANOVA evidenced a significant effect of primary taste on skin resistance amplitude (P: < 0.001) and duration (P: < 0.0001), skin temperature amplitude (P: < 0.001), skin blood flow amplitude (vasoconstriction) (P: < 0.0001) and instantaneous heart rate increase (P: < 0.0001). Skin resistance and cardiac responses were the most relevant ANS parameters to distinguish among the taste solutions.
The four primary tastes could be associated with significantly different ANS responses in relation to their hedonic valence: the pleasantly connoted and innate-accepted sweet taste induced the weakest ANS responses whereas the unpleasant connoted tastes (salty, sour and bitter) induced stronger ANS responses, the innate-rejected bitter taste inducing the strongest ones4.
Such a neurovegetative characterisation of each primary taste could provide references for the hedonic analysis of the more complex gustative sensation attached to foods.
If skin potential, skin resistance, skin blood flow, skin temperature and heart rate are any indication of depth of the taste field, then the intelligence of taste is deep indeed!
In summary, taste specificity and differentiation is connected to the neurovegetative status of the whole body via the ANS. The key take home message from this study is that;
'Taste is accurately correlated to serum levels of ion concentrations'.
Mineral Taste Testing
As validation of the above information, we have already been shown that your taste of a diluted zinc sulphate solution can determine your zinc status as accurately as a blood test. The Zinc Taste Test was developed and pioneered by Professor Bryce-Smith, (erstwhile Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Reading University).
A diluted solution of zinc sulphate is taken orally with the individual observing the taste. If there is no taste or after-taste, then the indication is that the individual needs zinc. If the perception is of something sweet or pleasant, then again this indicates a need for zinc. The stronger the taste in terms of metallic or unpleasant taste, then the less the individual requires zinc. As individuals improve their zinc status and determine this with the use of the taste test, so their blood zinc levels rise.
This method has also been used in a study with pregnant women who performed the zinc taste test and had blood tests to confirm their levels. There was a 70-100% correlation between the zinc taste test and serum levels5.
Sense of Taste - Mechanisms
The sense of taste is mediated by groups of cells called taste buds which sample oral concentrations of a large number of small molecules and report a sensation of taste to centres in the brainstem. In most animals, including humans, taste buds are most prevalent on small pegs of epithelium on the tongue called papillae. The taste buds themselves are too small to see without a microscope, but papillae are readily observed by close inspection of the tongue's surface.
To make them even easier to see, put a couple of drops of blue food colouring on the tongue (of someone you know well), and you'll see a bunch of little light colored bumps - mostly fungiform papillae - which stand out on a blue background. Taste receptor cells turnover rapidly, typically having a lifespan of about 2 weeks. taste buds occur on tongues, soft palates and laryngo-pharynges. Each taste bud consists of 50~100 cells. We suggest that these taste bud cells together with others make up cell networks within and among taste buds, and function as micro brains on tongues.
In addition to signal transduction by taste buds, it is also clear that the sense of smell profoundly affects the sensation of taste. Think about how tastes are blunted and sometimes different when your sense of smell is disrupted due to a cold.
The sense of taste is equivalent to excitation of taste receptors, and receptors for a large number of specific chemicals have been identified that contribute to the reception of taste. These include receptors for such chemicals as sodium, potassium, chloride, glutamate and adenosine. Despite this complexity, five types of tastes are commonly recognised:
The umami taste is that of monosodium glutamate and has recently been recognised as a unique taste, as it cannot be elicited by any combination of the other four taste types. Glutamate is present in a variety of protein-rich foods, and particularly abundant in aged cheese.
Perception of taste also appears to be influenced by thermal stimulation of the tongue. In some people, warming the front of the tongue produces a clear sweet sensation, while cooling leads to a salty or sour sensation.
It should be noted that these tastes are based on human sensations and some comparative physiologists caution that each animal probably lives in its own "taste world". For animals, it may be more appropriate to discuss tastes as being pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent.
None of these tastes are elicited by a single chemical. Also, there are thresholds for detection of taste that differ among chemicals that taste the same. For example, sucrose, 1-propyl-2 amino-4-nitrobenzene and lactose all taste sweet to humans, but the sweet taste is elicited by these chemicals at concentrations of roughly 10 mM, 2 uM and 30 mM respectively - a range of potency of roughly 15,000-fold. Substances sensed as bitter typically have very low thresholds.
Taste Bud Anatomy
Taste buds are composed of groups of about 40 columnar epithelial cells bundled together along their long axes. Taste cells within a bud are arranged such that their tips form a small taste pore, and through this pore extend microvilli from the taste cells. The microvilli of the taste cells bear taste receptors and it appears that most taste buds contain cells that bear receptors for 2 or 3 of the basic tastes.
Interwoven among the taste cells in a taste bud is a network of dendrites of sensory nerves called "taste nerves." When taste cells are stimulated by binding of chemicals to their receptors, they depolarise and this depolarisation is transmitted to the taste nerve fibres resulting in an action potential that is ultimately transmitted to the brain. One interesting aspect of this nerve transmission is that it rapidly adapts - after the initial stimulus, a strong discharge is seen in the taste nerve fibres but within a few seconds, that response diminishes to a steady-state level of much lower amplitude.
Once taste signals are transmitted to the brain, several efferent neural pathways are activated that are important to digestive function. For example, tasting food is followed rapidly by increased salivation and by low level secretory activity in the stomach.
Considerable attention has been devoted to understanding the benefits to survival and wellbeing that accrue from having a sense a taste. Some have speculated that an ability to taste bitterness may protect animals from ingesting certain natural poisons. There is no doubt that animals, including humans, develop taste preferences. That is, they will choose certain types of food in preference to others.
Interestingly, taste preference often changes in conjunction with body needs, and this is where the ‘Mineral Test Kit’ has such relevance.
Similarly animals often develop food aversions, particularly if they become ill soon after eating a certain food, even though that food was not the cause of the illness. You may even have experienced this yourself. Food preferences and aversions involve the sense of taste, but these phenomena are almost certainly mediated through the central nervous system rather that directly through taste cells.
1 Leshem M, Neufeld M, Del Canho S. Ontogeny of the ionic specificity of sodium appetite in the rat pup. Dev Psychobiol. 1994 Sep;27(6):381-94.
2 Inoue M, Tordoff MG. Calcium deficiency alters chorda tympani nerve responses to oral calcium chloride. Physiol Behav. 1998 Jan;63(2):297-303.
3 McCaughey SA, Tordoff MG. Magnesium appetite in the rat. Appetite. 2002 Feb;38(1):29-38.
4 Rousmans S, Robin O, Dittmar A, Vernet-Maury E. Chem Senses. Autonomic nervous system responses associated with primary tastes. Dec 2000; 25(6): 709-18.
5 HK Garg, KC Singal, and Z Arshad. Zinc taste test in pregnant women and its correlation with serum zinc level. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol, October 1, 1993; 37(4): 318-22.