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We've known for about a decade now that umami (or savory) is one of the five categories of taste -- along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. But it might be time to make room at the table for a sixth taste. Scooch over savory flavor, and make room for starchy!

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs | Photo by Meredith

Starchy? Well, yes. According to scientists from Oregon State University's Department of Food Science and Technology, starchy may be an elusive sixth taste, which could help explain our cravings for carbs. The details were published recently in the scientific journal Chemical Senses.

Until now, the consensus of opinion was that starch was tasteless. But the researchers at Oregon State discovered that participants in a carbohydrate-tasting study could detect starchy tastes even with their sweet taste receptors blocked. In this sweetless scenario, the participants experienced cereal-, bread-, or rice-like flavors -- which is to say, a starchy taste.

This is not to say that we've evolved taste receptors specifically fine-tuned for starchy flavors. The mechanism hasn't been determined. And, in fact, the science on starch as our sixth taste is still speculative. But if it's true that we've evolved receptors for starchy tastes, that would explain our need for noodles and why french fries cause a veritable feeding frenzy.

For more on this, grab a plate of pasta or a big ol' baked potato, and check out CNN's article: "Starchy Enters Race to be the Sixth Taste."

Carbonara pasta
Carbonara | Photo by Meredith

Explore your passion for pasta with our collection of Pasta Main Dish Recipes.