There are many amongst us who claim to live to eat and not vice versa. A love for food is dependent on the taste buds; but the five known tastes — sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (pleasantly savoury taste like that of protein) — indicate much more than a refined gastronomic appeal. So says Bano Singh Pandher, a Chandigarh-born dentist based in Norway. In the city on Saturday to taste Mediterranean dishes at Fabindia, Sector 17, the ‘taste researcher’ gave insights into her unique profession.
“I have done PhD in ‘making sense of taste’ and also written a book on the same title,” she shares. Bano, an associate professor at the University of Oslo, says it was while practicing dentistry at her private clinic that she decided to learn more about the science of taste. “When I used to treat patients for cavities, I figured that these resulted from having no less than six spoons of sugar a day. To help my patients cut down on excessive sugar, I studied the genetics of taste and how the genes for taste are built,” Bano says.
A visiting clinical food and wine taster at hotels and restaurants in Norway, Bano informs that she helps people evaluate, diagnose and treat taste disorders. “As a researcher, I work on taste areas in the brain,” she adds while acknowledging that not many in India know about her job.
Sharing more details about our sense of taste, Bano points out that some individuals prefer sweets or sour foods more since they can’t taste them well, perhaps due to psychological problems, genetic indisposition or metabolic disorders. But, these lead to high blood pressure, hypertension and obesity, so a person needs to be examined properly and treated.
“In the past, Punjabis, being agriculturists, got ample physical exercise and could therefore digest heavy food such as desi ghee and dairy products. But, now that lifestyle is mostly sedentary, they should try to reduce the intake of salt and sugar and have a lot of water to keep their skins glowing,” Bano suggests.