What is "cat tongue": why not all people can drink hot coffee and tea

Yulia PoteriankoLife
Drinking hot coffee can be problematic for people with sensitive tongues

What do you do with a hot drink that has just been poured for you? Do you drink it immediately or do you put it aside and wait for it to cool down a bit? If you choose the second option because very hot coffee or tea makes your mouth feel unpleasant and even painful, you probably have what is known as "cat tongue".

This term comes from Japanese. There, the phenomenon when a person is unpleasant to feel something hot in the mouth is called "nekojita", which translates as "cat tongue". As the publication Science Norway, scientists have studied this phenomenon and even concluded whether nekojita is not something dangerous.

A difference of 13 degrees

German scientists wanted to find out at what temperature the pain threshold kicks in when a person drinks or eats hot things. They poured coffee for 87 subjects. Their task was to record whether the drink was a pleasant temperature for them, too cold or excessively hot. The temperature of the liquid in the cups was gradually increased for them with each new serving. When the participants felt that the drink burned their tongue, the experiment was stopped.

It turned out that sensitivity varied from person to person. The first portion of the drink for all subjects had a temperature of 58°C. And even then, several people noted that it was too hot for them. And one of the participants did not feel discomfort until he was poured coffee with a temperature of 71°C. So the difference between the lowest and the highest was 13°C.

"There is a huge difference in how much pain people experience and can tolerate," explained Christopher Nielsen, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health who studies pain sensitivity. According to him, what won't cause harm to one person may be simply unbearable for another. There are also differences in what kinds of pain we tolerate better and what kinds we tolerate worse.

Different types of pain

As Nielsen explained, people can usually tolerate only a little pain from heat and much more from pressure or cold. But the nature of this phenomenon is still not well understood.

For example, scientists are still unable to conclude definitively whether the pain threshold differs in different areas of the body. For example, in the same way, whether people who have a "cat's tongue" are sensitive to heat in other points or not. What is certain, however, is that the oral cavity is particularly sensitive to the effects of hot.

Thin mucosa

The mucosa in the mouth is not as good at protecting against the effects of heat as the skin. According to Lars Arendt-Nielsen, a pain researcher at Aalborg University in Denmark, the action of the mucosa is comparable to that of skin without epidermis.

That said, a study of the effects of hot liquids on the oral mucosa found that we drink beverages at temperatures that can cause tissue damage. But at the same time they are quickly distributed throughout the oral cavity and almost immediately swallowed. According to scientists, it is because of the speed of this process that the same coffee does not burn the mucosa - it just does not have enough time for this.

However, if the drink is too hot, you can still get small burns in the throat. In addition, according to a German study, regular consumption of very hot drinks can increase the risk of esophageal cancer. Therefore, those who prefer a cooled drink avoid it much better.

How common is "cat tongue"

The word "nekojita" is quite common in the Japanese language, and this indicates that among the country's inhabitants, many have this characteristic. There are so many of them that there was even a need for a special term.

As explained by Nathan Edwin Hopson, a professor of Japanese from the University of Bergen, he had never heard of this phenom until he visited Japan. At the same time, the scientist noted that the word has a completely neutral connotation - it describes neither something good nor something bad, it simply names a commonplace fact.

Once in Japan, a weather forecasting site conducted a poll among readers. The editors of the resource described winter as the season of hot soups and stews, that is, a difficult period for those with a "cat's tongue." They asked which of the visitors to their resource had this peculiarity. More than 10,000 people responded.

If you count in percentage terms, then about their sensitivity to hot drinks and dishes said 47% of those surveyed - almost half. This phenomenon was most common among people aged 20 and a little more.

Earlier OBOZREVATEL told why you should not drink tea and coffee in the airplane.

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