The Science behind the Sour | God's World News

The Science behind the Sour

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    Do you like sour candy? (123RF)
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    Sour tastes can cause your eyes to squint and your tongue to tingle. (Getty Images)
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    The sour candy market may be worth as much as $2.7 billion by 2030. (AP/Kathy Willens)
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    The taste buds are inside tiny tongue bumps called papillae. This is what papillae look like under a microscope. (123RF)
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    The acids in sour candy are also found in different types of fruit. (Pixabay)
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Warheads? Sour Ooze? Toxic Waste? Lemonheads? Mouth-puckering sweets are kings of candy. The multi-billion-dollar U.S. sour candy market suggests Americans are sweet on sour.

Be they gummy, gel, powder, or hard, today’s favorite candies can inflict eye-squinting, tongue-tingling pain in the palate. Science says a combination of taste, chemistry, and human psychology account for sour candy’s wide appeal.

God wired our brains to seek pleasurable experiences. One of those is the taste of food. He made buds on human tongues able to detect five primary tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, umami, and sour.

For many, sour is a tangy tongue jolt that provides culinary pleasure. Sourness is associated with acids in foods, mostly fruits. It triggers a reaction with taste receptors on the tongue.

Here’s where things get tricky: The brain interprets the acid taste as a possible threat. It signals the salivary glands to produce more saliva as a defense. Heightened alertness (what’s happening in my mouth?) plus the taste experience (yummy, yummy!) release a rush of dopamine, a chemical linked with pleasure and reward. The dopamine contributes to the feeling of enjoyment, making eating sour candy even more enjoyable.

Late last year, folks on social media began claiming that sour candy can even calm panic attacks by distracting from problems. Some doctors agreed. The sourness can actually take people’s minds off worrying about the future and onto the wow-this-is-reallllllly-sour! here and now.

Eating sour for one’s nerves is a temporary coping strategy. But most mental health experts insist going sour won’t cure fear or anxiety.

“Primarily using sugary foods like candy to reduce panic symptoms can develop into a [faulty] coping mechanism,” warns Dr. Toya Roberson-Moore. Still, the distraction of fighting acid with spit can work short-term for some people.

A recent visit to Eddie World in Yermo, California, reveals aisles and aisles of candy. Some of the sourest sweets on the planet—at least 94 varieties of tongue-tingling confections—are the most popular, according to employee Kena Burch.

A WORLDteen reporter asks a woman shopping the candy aisle about her favorites. She doesn’t give her name but readily announces, “I like the sour watermelon belts!” And she likes the sour to go all the way through—no sweet centers for her.

Watermelon belt woman’s son approaches carrying a bag of “Sourlicious Pink Lemonade Straws.” He’s a sour fan too.

Whether it’s because of kids daring each other to try the tartest gummy or celebrating the shared thrill of the tang, sour candies have secured a place as a beloved, if puckery, resident of the world of confections.

Why? God crafted human taste buds and brains to work together to enjoy all types of food treats from sweet to salty to sour.

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