If you thought water was flavorless, think again. A new study has found that water actually has a flavor, and it's most closely defined as sour. This may come as vindication for those who have always complained of not liking the taste of water.

The study, now published online in Nature Neuroscience, found that when mice drank water, it stimulated the “sour” taste sensors on their tongues. According to the team from Caltech University in California, water should be considered its own independent flavor, different from the five known flavors sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami, The Independent reported.

"The tongue can detect various key nutrient factors, called tastants — such as sodium, sugar, and amino acids — through taste, however, how we sense water in the mouth was unknown,” study author Yuki Oka said in a recent statement. “Many insect species are known to ‘taste’ water, so we imagined that mammals also might have a machinery in the taste system for water detection.”

Read: How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day? 4 To 6 Glasses Is Ideal, Researchers Say

In the study, the team analyzed mice’s tongues while they drank water. In order to prove that sour cells on the tongue indeed were involved in water detection, the team used a technique called optogenetics to stimulate the sour cells on the tongue with light instead of water. The team then replaced water in these genetically altered mice water bottles with blue light. Despite not actually getting hydrated, the genetically altered mice would still go to the spout and “drink” the water, as it stimulated the sour taste buds.

These results suggest that pure water actually does have a taste, which is an interesting discovery on its own. This finding also opens the door for further questions, such as, what information about taste are sour cells actually conveying to the brain? This could help us better understand how the brain interprets water.

“Maybe sour cells are not directly linked to the unpleasant sourness that we perceive, but instead they may induce a different type of taste, like water, when stimulated," suggested first author and graduate student Dhruv Zocchi in a statement.

Taste buds are actually considered to be an organ on their own, and have microscopic hairs called microvilli on them that send messages from the tongue to the brain, Kids Health reported. The average person has about 10,000 of these taste buds at any given time, but they are replaced about once every two weeks. Taste buds also work alongside the nose to help your brain make sense of a certain flavor. Together, the smell and the taste messages will reach your brain, helping you to determine whether or not you want to eat or drink something.

Source: Zocchi D, Wennemuth G, Oka Y, et al.The cellular mechanism for water detection in the mammalian taste system. Nature Neuroscience . 2017

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