The only reason we love our favorite food and beverages is because of the tongue. It allows us to taste the complex and delightful flavors in the food. It is one of the most intriguing parts of the human body, and here are some interesting facts about it:
1. A Unique Muscle
While most people are familiar with the fact that the human tongue is a muscle, only a few know that it is a collection of independent muscles, i.e., it doesn’t require a skeletal system to function. Previously, it was thought that the human tongue is the strongest muscle in the body; however, it is only the strongest muscle that functions without the assistance of the skeletal system.
2. World Record holding Tongues
Unlike other muscles in the body that can be broken down and repaired to grow stronger, the tongue doesn’t respond to workouts. Despite that, some talented individuals trained their tongues to achieve great feats. Casey Severn holds the world record for setting off 53 mousetraps on his tongue, and Thomas Blackthorne holds the record for lifting the heaviest weight with his tongue, at 12 kilograms. Lastly, Lukas Bikker is the record holder for keeping his tongue in contact with his nose for 14 minutes.
3. Hinting about Health
It is quite common to see tongues in different colors, and most assume that each tongue is of a different color. Surprisingly, the color of the tongue describes the individual’s health conditions. A healthy person’s tongue is pink, and if it is any other color, it signifies some illness. White spots on the tongue mean a yeast infection, bright red tongue results from folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency. Lastly, the black color of the tongue is because of diabetes or chemotherapy. Moreover, in the medical discipline of Ayurveda, the tongue is referred to as the mirror of the stomach.
4. Taste Zones Myth
In the past, it was widely believed that different areas of the tongue taste different flavors. For instance, the sweet flavors were thought to be experienced at the tip of the tongue and bitterness at the back. This idea was further popularized by the theory that these taste zones allowed our ancestors to distinguish good foods from poisonous ones. Interestingly, David Hänig, a German researcher, described these zones as sensitive areas for certain flavors; however, he never mentioned that different areas of the tongue are unable to taste different foods.
5. A lot of Taste Buds
Everyone is familiar with the taste buds, and it is believed that the bumps on the tongue are known as taste buds. Interestingly, despite having 3,000 taste buds on average, we are unable to see them because taste buds are extremely tiny, and are not visible to the naked eye. Plus, tastebuds renew themselves each week. As for the bumps, those are known as papillae, and taste buds rest atop papillae.
6. Types of Papillae
Interestingly, the most common type of papillae, known as the fungiform papillae, is not visible to the naked eye, and it is present at the tip and the side edges of the tongue. The other two are visible to the naked eye. The second one is called circumvallate papillae, and about 8 of these can be found at the back of the tongue, and these are arranged in a v-shape. Lastly, the foliate papillae are on the rear edge of the tongue, and these range anywhere from 15 to 20 in number.
7. Tongue Prints
Presently, fingerprints and eye scans are considered to be the most secure form of encryption with a human body part; however, our tongue prints are equally, if not more secure. Each individual is born with a unique print on their tongue. Research is going on that will allow the development of tongue biometrics.
8. Tongue Tricks
While we all can twist our tongues to one side or both, only a few people can make unique shapes with their tongues. Interestingly, this attribute is not associated with genetics whatsoever, as it is proven by a study conducted with twins, in which one twin could make a tube-like shape with their tongues, while the other couldn’t.
9. Males have Larger Tongues
The size of the human tongue is based on the sex of the individual. On average, males have a 3.3 inches long tongue, compared to 3.1 inches in women. Tongues are measured from the tip to the epiglottis. Interestingly, the longest tongue in the world is nearly 4 inches long. It belongs to Nick Steberl, and he holds the world record for the longest tongue in the world at 3.97 inches.
10. Tibetan Greeting
Sticking your tongue out to others will be considered childish or may even get you in trouble in other parts of the world; however, in Tibet, you will be greeted by others sticking their tongues at you as well. Interestingly, it is a form of greeting in Tibet. This tradition was initiated in the 9th century when Lang Darma, a king known for his black tongue, passed away. Rumors were surfacing that the king has been reborn, therefore, people were asked to show their tongues. Since then, it has become a way of greeting in Tibet.