26 Apr, 2024 @ 15:07
1 min read

How the colour of your tongue can warn you of cancer or diabetes, according to Harvard scientists


HARVARD scientists have revealed how the colour of your tongue can be an early sign of cancer and diabetes. 

Many people don’t know this, but your tongue can reveal much about your health. 

From the colour to the texture, the appearance of your tongue can give clues to what’s going on in your body. 

Now, an article published by Harvard University has confirmed this, saying it should have a round and symmetrical look. 

Photo by Alex Mihai C on Unsplash

“Generally it is a light pink colour, although some may have a purple or brown pigmentation in African, Asian and Mediterranean populations.”  

They also highlighted that the tongue can have white layer. 

According to Tien Jiang, Odontologist at the Department of Public Oral Health and Epidemiology at the Harvard Medical Dentistry school: “this comes from a resistant protein called keratin which helps us not to scratch it when we eat.” 

Sometimes, the colour of our tongue is affected by our diet. 

This is because the papillae (bumps on the tongue which help grip food and contain taste buds) on its surface can absorb colours and residue from food and drink. 

Curries with a lot of turmeric can stain the tongue yellow, while some sweets are known for leaving us with a striking blue mouth. 

But, these effects are temporary and pass within a few minutes. 

So, what colours should we be concerned about? 

READ MORE: These fruits and vegetables carry the most traces of pesticides in Spain – here’s how to remove them

Brown or black 

“A brown or black tongue indicates a condition called ‘black hairy tongue’ which occurs when the papillae become too large.

“Normally, these small bumps don’t have much room to grow, but if they do, they can trap bacteria and mixtures of coloured food, leaving a brown or black tint.” 

The condition is provoked by antibiotics, smoking, mouth dryness, excessive coffee or tea drinking and bad oral hygiene. 

White stains or sores

This is a sign you have a yeast overgrowth in the mouth. 

It can be provoked by illnesses such as diabetes or AIDS, antibiotics, cancer treatment, using dentures, smoking, mouth dryness and the use of inhalers. 

In extreme cases, they can be a sign of mouth cancer. 

If they become yellow, red and painful, they may also be a sign of cancer or canker sores. 

Bright red

This alarming condition could be a sign you have a B12 deficiency, scarlet fever or strep throat. 

The latter two conditions will be accompanied by a red rash. 

READ MORE: WHO says adults should eat at least 400 gm of fruits and vegetables per day 

Yzabelle Bostyn

After spending much of her childhood in Andalucia and adulthood between Barcelona and Latin America, Yzabelle has settled in the Costa del Sol to put her NCTJ & Journalism Masters to good use. She is particularly interested in travel, vegan food and has been leading the Olive Press Nolotil campaign. Have a story? email [email protected]


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