Fact Check

Eating Too Much Sour Candy Can Cause the Tongue to Peel?

Like skin, the tongue is made up of several layers.

Published Jan 21, 2024

 (Pixabay/Public Domain)
Image Via Pixabay/Public Domain
Claim:
Eating too much sour candy can cause the tongue to peel.

A post shared on Reddit on Jan. 7, 2024, (archived here) to the thread r/todayilearned, claimed that “eating too many Sour Skittles in one sitting (or any sour candy) can make your tongue shed a layer of skin.”

At the time of this publication, the post had received more than 12,000 upvotes.

TIL: Eating too many Sour Skittles in one sitting (or any sour candy) can make your tongue shed a layer of skin
byu/UEF-ACU intodayilearned

A version of the claim first went viral in September 2020 after model Chrissy Teigen posted a video to her Instagram stories in which she described how her third pregnancy craving of sour candies had caused her tongue to peel.

Snopes spoke with Melissa Prest, a Chicago-based, registered dietician nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who said that this claim is true.

“The acids in the candy that make them sour can disrupt the surface of the tongue causing some sloughing of the top layer. It is important to limit sour and spicy foods until your tongue is healed. You should also wait about 30 to 60 minutes after eating sour candy and foods to allow your saliva to neutralize the acid,” Prest told Snopes in an email.

The American Dental Association writes that sour, carbonated, and citrus-flavored foods and drinks should be limited:

… some sour candies are almost as acidic as battery acid, and many use citric acids to get that desired effect. If you like a little sour with your sweet tooth, please pucker in moderation.

The North Carolina-based dentistry Lane & Associates further confirmed that eating sour candies can “cause your tongue to peel,” writing that:

The acids in sour candy are what makes them so good to eat, but those acids are also what eats away at the top layer of skin on your tongue. You might notice that your tongue feels raw and sensitive; these symptoms should go away within a few days, sometimes as quickly as one day depending on how much sour candy you have eaten. When the top layer of skin peels off, you’ll know your skin is healing and you can fully enjoy your favorite foods again! Consider staying away from sour or spicy things immediately after to give your mouth a chance to fully recover.

Like skin, the tongue is made up of several layers. On its outermost layer, the muscular organ is covered in different types of taste buds and bumps known as papillae. There are four different types of taste buds, or clusters of nerve cells that transmit sensory messages to the brain like with sour foods, according to the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Filiform. Located on the front two-thirds of your tongue, filiform papillae are thread-like in appearance. Unlike other types of papillae, filiform papillae don’t contain taste buds.
  • Fungiform. These papillae get their name from their mushroom-like shape. Located mostly on the sides and tip of your tongue, fungiform papillae consist of approximately 1,600 taste buds.
  • Circumvallate. The small bumps on the back of your tongue are the circumvallate papillae. They appear larger than the other types of papillae, and they contain approximately 250 taste buds.
  • Foliate. Located on each side of the back portion of your tongue, the foliate papillae look like rough folds of tissue. Each person has about 20 foliate papillae, which contain several hundred taste buds.

Just like burning your tongue can damage the papillae and taste buds, so too can acidic foods that produce a sour taste.

Dentist Alina Lane, founder of All Smiles Dentistry in New York, wrote in a Dec. 12, 2023, wikiHow blog post that a sour-candy-sore tongue can be remedied by using a recommended dose of over-the-counter benzocaine oral gel.

Eating too much sour candy may also be harmful to teeth.

Sources

“Burned Tongue: Symptoms and Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/24534-burned-tongue. Accessed 17 Jan. 2024.

“Chrissy Teigen Has Been Eating a Lot of Sour Candy — and Her Tongue Is Paying the Price.” TODAY.Com, 28 Aug. 2020, https://www.today.com/food/chrissy-teigen-s-tongue-peeling-after-eating-too-much-sour-t190450.

“Chrissy Teigen Is Eating So Much Sour Candy That Her Tongue Is Falling Off And The Video Is WILD.” Delish, 28 Aug. 2020, https://www.delish.com/food-news/a33832690/chrissy-teigen-sour-candy-tongue/.

“Dr. Alina Lane, DDS.” New Office Website, https://www.allsmilesnyc.com/dr-alina-lane-dds. Accessed 17 Jan. 2024.

Frank, Hannah E. R., et al. “The Evolution of Sour Taste.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 289, no. 1968, Feb. 2022. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.1918.

“Lane & Associates | North Carolina Family Dentistry | 877-LANE-DDS.” Lane & Associates, https://lanedds.com/. Accessed 17 Jan. 2024.

Mistretta, Charlotte M., and Archana Kumari. “Tongue and Taste Organ Biology and Function: Homeostasis Maintained by Hedgehog Signaling.” Annual Review of Physiology, vol. 79, Feb. 2017, pp. 335–56. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-physiol-022516-034202.

“Pregnant Chrissy Teigen Says She’s Been Eating ‘So Much’ Sour Candy That Her ‘Tongue Is Falling Off.’” Peoplemag, https://people.com/food/chrissy-teigen-eats-so-much-sour-candy-tongue-falling-off/. Accessed 17 Jan. 2024.

“Tongue: Definition, Location, Anatomy & Function.” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22845-tongue. Accessed 17 Jan. 2024.

“Why Does My Tongue Peel When I Eat Sour Candy?” Lane & Associates, https://lanedds.com/why-does-my-tongue-peel-when-i-eat-sour-candy/. Accessed 17 Jan. 2024.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.