Why does water have such a neutral taste?


Why does water have such a neutral taste?

In: Chemistry

I imagine it only tastes neutral because it is what we view as the neutral drink.

If we were not dependent on water, but instead Plum juice, I’m sure the Plum juice would be considered as tasting neutral.

Humans lack the taste-buds necessary to *taste* water. Other animals, such as dogs, have been proven to obtain them.

The phenomenon you’re asking about is an example of *sensory adaptation.* It’s a decrease in sensitivity to a stimulus over time as a result of constant exposure to that stimulus. This can occur across all sensory modalities. One example that I like to use is tactile pressure sensation. When you put a ball-cap on your head you will feel that slight banded, constricted sensation of the hat exerting force upon pressure receptors located in your skin. As the seconds turn in to minutes and the minutes turn in to hours, your nervous system adapts to the stimulus. The pressure sensation will gradually decrease, and will often extinguish altogether.

This is also the case for the taste of water. There is a substance secreted in to your mouth constantly: You saliva. And, of course, it’s mostly water. Yes, it has a mineral and enzyme concentration, and these solutes can produce a “taste”. But it’s mostly water, and you are constantly exposed to this taste stimulus. But due to sensory adaptation, your sensitivity to the “taste” of water decreases.

The mechanism, as it relates to the water we drink, tends to be just a tiny bit more complex, but the underlying phenomenon is the same.

Water can have a detectable taste due to minerals and chemicals in the solution, but pure H20 has no detectable flavour or odour. It’s our fundamental base environment, that all life came from and is made of. Your body is more than 70% water, your saliva is 99% water, the air around you has humidity from 1%-99% (water), so the reason you don’t taste it, is there is no evolutionary advantage to have that ability. What we can taste and smell are things IN the water, which has obvious advantages.

Even if your brain was wired differently and could taste water, it would probably cancel out that sensation since it’s a constant, much like we don’t really notice the unique smell of our homes because we live in it, we don’t notice the ambient sounds of our environment because we get used to them. Our brains are wired to detect changes in our environment that are useful to us, could be dangerous, or are otherwise important for one reason or another.