why is it when you pinch your nose you can’t taste anything?

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I made a pretty horrible tasting protein shake and my mum told me to pinch my nose then drink it and I tasted nothing. How does that even work?

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It doesn’t work wholesale. The ELI5 answer is that your sent glands (olfactory) can also interpret your taste glands (gustation). If a scent is aerosolized and goes into your nostrils it will be taken up by the scent glands and send signals to your brain. When you eat, often, those scents are coming off of the food (which is hot and cooked) at a high rate due to the heat “exciting” the molecules. When you plug your nose, you are depriving the scent glands of taking up those scents so the only receptors being triggered are the taste glands. For taste buds to be activated, a molecule needs to be absorbed by saliva then placed on the bud/gland. There is always saliva present so you will always taste something, but, if you plug your nose and then taste something and only take one bite of it, your mouth is not producing saliva in larger quantities like it would 5 minutes into a meal, so you are processing the minimal amount of molecules for empirical scent and taste reception from your one bite, which gives the illusion that you tasted nothing.

Taste from your tongue is only good for sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami flavours. That’s how many different types of taste bud you have. Everything else comes from your nose with has hundreds or thousands of different kinds.