Tuesday, July 20, 2010


You eat a varied diet and plenty of vegetables. Your best friend subsists on diet soda and cheese pizza. Is she hopelessly spoiled, or is her perception of taste just wired differently? Modern science might have the answer.

In recent years, scientists have begun discussing supertasters—individuals who experience taste more strongly than others, and who are more likely to be picky eaters. Supertasters are particularly sensitive to bitter flavors (which they often shun). Research suggests that in the U.S., roughly 35 percent of women and 15 percent of men are supertasters.

If all this sounds made up, you’ll be surprised to hear that a scientific test can sift out supertasters. The test is remarkably simple. Participants taste a solution that includes a chemical like propylthiouracil. Many people find this taste mildly unpleasant, but supertasters find it stomach-churningly awful. Still other people (called, rather sadly, nontasters) say the mystery chemical has no taste at all.

You can test your own tasting abilities using an at-home kit, like the kind sold on http://supertastertest.com. Or you can try the crude experiment discussed next, which uses dye to help you estimate the number of taste buds on your tongue. (The current thinking is that supertasters have a heavier concentration of taste buds on their tongues, but this is probably not the only reason for supertasting.)

Here’s how to perform the test:
1. Gather up your supplies: some blue food coloring, a piece of paper with a 7-millimeter (about a quarter-inch) hole punched through it, and a magnifying glass.

2. Using a cotton swab, rub some of the food coloring onto the tip of your tongue. Your tongue will absorb the dye, but the tiny papillae will stay pink. This is where your taste buds are.

3. Put the piece of paper over the front part of your tongue.

4. Using the magnifying glass, look at the hole. Now count how many pink dots you see within the hole. A score of fewer than 15 suggests you’re a nontaster. A count of from 15 to 35 ranks you as normal, while anything greater suggests supertasting abilities.

Supertasters don’t necessarily have a better sense of taste than normal people. It all depends on your perspective. Yes, supertasters have a stronger reaction to certain tastes, but there’s still much to be said for a cultured palate—in other words, a broad love of food honed through years of comparative tasting.

Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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