Science Byte: on water and mint

Written by Marie Brown

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Why do we feel cold when we have water after a mint?

We’ve all experienced the unnatural sensation, the extreme cold of taking a cool drink shortly after eating a mint, but what causes this unusual effect?

Temperature changes are picked up by receptors and are transmitted by sensory neurons to the central nervous system where they are processed, making you feel hot or cold. One of such neurons, a protein called TRPM8, is stimulated by low temperatures, leading to the perception of cold.

This protein, however, is also stimulated in the presence of menthol, an organic substance found in mint oils. Drinking a glass of cold water after coming into contact with menthol not only triggers the receptor a second time, but it may also wash off other substances on the receptors. This allows the waxy substance to trigger receptors that were otherwise covered, creating that frozen, fresh feeling often associated with mint.

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Marie Brown

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