From the Tongue to the Gut

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The physiology of human taste experienced an unprecedented expansion of knowledge brought forward by modern genetics and molecular biology. In the last 10 years, the cellular organization of taste receptors from taste buds distributed in the various papillae of the tongue and the soft palate was enlightened. This molecular revolution rapidly expanded over and above the tongue because several papers reporting the presence of taste receptors in nongustatory tissues (eg, gut, brain) appeared. Hence, the issue of perception of food molecules is no longer confined to the field of nutrition and food preferences, but is rapidly expanding to gastrointestinal (GI) function and, possibly, to gut dysfunction. In children, functional GI diseases are strictly correlated to food preference and food aversion and up to now, the tools to address these kinds of problems were basic nutritional requirements, familial good sense, and a lot of patience: blunt tools to face extremely common and disturbing complaints. The fact that taste receptors are expressed down the whole of the intestinal tract is of particular interest because of their possible role in digestive behavior and absorption of nutrients; therefore, recent and future discoveries in this field will make possible the fine-tuning of new, sharper tools to treat children with functional GI diseases.

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