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Umami and Human Happiness: How Powerful is the Fifth Flavor?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Although glutamate was discovered in 1908, it wasn’t until the 1980s that it came to be described as ‘umami’, the fifth flavor. It is a savory taste, to go along with our other flavors of sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Umami is translated from Japanese to mean ‘pleasant savory taste’. The fact that there are separate glutamate receptors on the tongue caused scientists to proclaim that savory was a different sensation than salty (which has its own receptors). A new video series (commissioned by the Umami Burger chain but not an overt advertisement for the restaurants) takes a humorous approach to the study of the fifth flavor.

Our hero scientist Dr. Kanye West (no, the other Kanye West) wonders: is there a link between umami and human happiness?

The videos are humorous and light, and are certainly not meant to point towards any kind of valid scientific study. However, it’s important to appreciate the times when mainstream media chooses to embrace a scientific/documentary style that is truly in the spirit of science. I found them fun and well worth taking a few minutes break from my work day. Enjoy!

The Fifth Feeling: Episode 1 – watch more funny videos

There are four more episodes to follow from here, this link will automatically play them.

Carin Bondar About the Author: Carin Bondar is a biologist, writer and film-maker with a PhD in population ecology from the University of British Columbia. Find Dr. Bondar online at, on twitter @drbondar or on her facebook page: Dr. Carin Bondar – Biologist With a Twist. Follow on Twitter @drbondar.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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