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Q & A: Salivary amylase

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Most recent answer: 01/22/2020
What is the reason that when chewing a piece of bread, it intially tastes sweet and after a few minutes, it tastes bitter.
- keith
Salivary amylase is an enzyme which breaks down the starches found in bread to sugar. This happens very rapidly, so some sugars are in your mouth before being swallowed, making the bread taste sweet. Sugars dissolve in your saliva and get swallowed over the course of a few minutes -- eventually all the carbohydrates are converted or swallowed, leaving the other components of the bread -- which may have a very different taste, depending on what kind of bread it is.

(Some breads have added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup added as sweeteners).


(published on 10/22/2007)

Follow-Up #1: enzymes and runny soup

Your answer about salivary amylase makes me wonder... I used to be a food server and would serve thick soups, such as cream of potato or clam chowder, to customers. When clearning their bowls away, they would often leave some of the soup remaining. But, the remaining soup would be runny. Is this because of amylase transferring from their spoon to the soup?
- Paddy (age 47)
North Bend, WA, USA
Your theory sounds very reasonable to me. However, my Bostonian wife was so shocked at the thought of any clam chowder being left in the bowl that she came up with an alternate theory. Maybe, she said, it's a selection bias effect. Only people who order diet chowder would leave any in the bowl, and it tends to be runny to begin with. The choice between these theories (and others) could be resolved with more data.

Mike W.

(published on 01/14/2012)

Follow-Up #2: salivary amylase and clam chowder

When my wife eats thick clam chowder it gets thin & watery by the time she finishes eating it.Can salivary amylase cause this?We have discussed this with 2 doctors & they both have never heard of it---but it happens every time she eats clam chowder.She had an attack of acute pancreatitis about 3 weeks ago----is there any correlation between amylase levels & pancreatitus-----Thanks for your answer
- Sandy Middleton (age 69)

We aren't MDs here, but your theory makes complete sense to me. I don't know anything about that correlation, but a quick Google search turns up this:

If your results show an abnormal level of amylase in your blood or urine, it may mean you have a disorder of the pancreas or other medical condition. High levels of amylase may indicate: Acute pancreatitis, a sudden and severe inflammation of the pancreas.Feb 20, 2020

I hope that you are following up medically, and congratulate you on what looks like a brilliant hypothesis.

Mike W.

(published on 01/22/2020)

Follow-up on this answer.