story, science, technology and creativity

Science break: All about drool

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Hidden treasure? A forgotten folder of science
While I was searching for fiction ideas, I found a folder of unpublished science stories that I had totally forgotten about. The first of these was an introduction to slobber (don’t you just love slobber?!)

If your mouth is watering just thinking about slobber, then you need to read this:

Drool, also known as spit, slobber or saliva, is the first step in preparing your food for its downward journey.

As you chew, you produce lots of super-slimy saliva which puts a slippery coating on the chunks of food in your mouth. This makes everything beautifully soggy: all ready to slide down your throat.

The goopy globs of pre-chewed food are called “bolus”. You produce one to two litres of saliva every day, so you can make a whole lot of bolus.

Meet amylase

Saliva is around 98% water, but don’t let that fool you. The remaining 2% does most of the work.

Every spit globule contains a potent mix of chemicals that work to break your food into smaller bits. The most important ingredient is an enzyme called amylase, a digestion specialist.

Amylase works like a pair of scissors, slicing giant starch molecules into smaller, sugary molecules. This means that you begin to digest starchy foods — like rice, bread and pasta — even before they hit your stomach.

Your saliva also contains mucus, which is crammed full of natural chemicals that produce a helpful slimy texture. The saliva slime glues your food into tasty bolus balls, all ready for the next exciting part of digestion (which we won’t cover here, but I think you know where digestion ends up).

Other slobber bonuses

Slobber keeps your tongue wet, which helps you to taste your food, and it keeps your mouth clean, thanks to the constant rinsing, swallowing and secreting. Just imagine your life without spit!

Experiment: Sweet as

You will need:

  • A piece of bread
  • Lots of spit

What to do:

Take a big bite of the bread and start chewing. What does it taste like? Keep chewing until the bread becomes totally mushy. Keep chewing, keep chewing. Don’t swallow! Chew for at least two minutes. What does the bread taste like now?

Why is it so?

Bread is high in starchy carbohydrates and low in sugar, but the more you chew, the more sugar you will be able to taste. The amylase in your spit slices through the giant starch molecules in your bread, turning them into smaller sugary molecules, which is why the bread starts to taste so sweet.

Hooray for spit!

Author: cristyburne


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