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Saliva Communication

March 7, 2017

How sensors in the mouth help orchestrate digestion and metabolism.



How our mouths talk to our gut. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When we put a bite of food into our mouths and start chewing, the whole body pays attention, according to Rutgers nutritional scientist Paul Breslin. At a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he explained that an enzyme called salivary amylase breaks down starches into smaller molecules. Chemical sensors in the mouth analyze them and send the information downstream.

PAUL BRESLIN (Rutgers University):

The best way to process foods in your body is when you know they’re coming in and you can be prepared and ready for them.


In this case, the pancreas starts secreting insulin to regulate the incoming sugars. Breslin says people with low levels of amylase in their saliva may be susceptible to metabolic disorders like diabetes. He says understanding chemical sensing and communication like this could help scientists prevent and treat a host of metabolic and immune disorders. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon