When we left off the lesson last week, we were discussing the role of the nose and sense of smell in digestion, so let’s pick up with another important part of digestion: the mouth. Once food is in our mouth, our teeth rip, shred, and grind it into smaller pieces with help from our powerful jaw muscles. Saliva in turn moistens the food and saturates it with enzymes that start to break it down for absorption. Saliva is about 95% water, with the rest being mucus, enzymes, glycoproteins, and antimicrobial chemicals that help prevent pathogens from getting into our system. In the 1.5 or so liters of saliva we make every day, we find digestive enzymes like amylase which begins the digestion of starch, and lipase which begins the digestion of fats. However, it is important to know that we don’t digest much fat in our mouth since it takes a relatively long time to digest fat – much longer than we usually keep fat in our mouth. Our tongue tastes the food and eventually pushes it back into our throat to swallow.
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