It may not be a surprise, though, that not all tastes are created equal. What may be enjoyable to you may be absolutely foul to your brother or your best friend, and foods you hated as a kid might now be enjoyable as an adult. This is all perfectly normal! But what about that person who, instead of finding most foods flavorful, find them distasteful and unbearable?
Think they’re just being a picky eater? Chances are, they actually a supertaster.
A supertaster is defined as someone who experiences the sensation of taste with far greater intensity than most other people. So, those salad greens that are mildly bitter or that sweet piece of cake might be unbearably bitter or sugary to a supertaster. On the other hand, some supertasters get a lot more pleasure and enjoyment out of foods and can often pick up on subtle flavors that most people can’t perceive.
How does this phenomenon happen? Supertasters simply have a lot more taste buds than the average person, and therefore, pick up on tastes with much greater intensity and specificity. Genetics are also believed to play a role, it hasn’t been studied that deeply yet. In general, supertasters tend to be female, and are more heavily concentrated in Asia, South America, and Africa. Because it is harder for them to eat a lot of foods, supertasters tend to be on the thinner side, but also tend to be at a higher risk for illnesses like colon cancer. Scientists suspect that this is because supertasters tend to find vegetables and dark, leafy greens completely unpalatable due to the intense bitterness, and consequently miss out on the cancer-fighting vitamins and minerals this produce provides.
Think that you might be a supertaster? There are two ways to test. One is by sampling a small amount of PROP, which is usually used as a thyroid medication. To supertasters, PROP will be unbearably bitter while to normal tasters it will be slightly bitter to tasteless. Or, simply dip a cotton ball in blue food coloring and coat the surface of your tongue. Then, take a round paper reinforcement (the kind you use for binder paper) and place it on an area of your tongue. Then, look at your tongue in the mirror: your tongue will be colored blue, but the papillae will remain pink. Count the number of papillae inside the reinforcement. If there are more than 35 papillae in the area, you are likely a supertaster. If you have less than 15, you are a non-taster. 15-25 is within the “normal taster” range, and 25-35 classifies you as a medium taster.
So, while it may seem cool to be able to taste things with a great intensity, it’s actually a double-edged sword. Many foods are unpalatable to supertasters, though other foods may be intensely pleasurable. Are you a supertaster? Let us know about your experience in the comments!