Discover Magazine: How Our Sense of Taste Evolves and Adapts

In 1980, a candy company launched a new gum aimed at kids. Big League Chew sold a pouch of shredded gum that was meant to resemble chewing tobacco. It came in original flavor, grape and sour apple.

Big League Chew was just one of many sweet treats that kids enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s. Another popular confection, Nerds, were flavored sugar crystals coated with liquid corn syrup.

People who grew up during these decades might have fond memories of these flavors. But it’s also unlikely they would enjoy trying these treats today. Taste receptors are designed to evolve and adapt to the environment around us, and our preferences change as we age. Scientists are learning more about our changing tastes, but also what problems can arise when medicines mute our senses.

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