Supertasters

A MATTER OF TASTE

What is a Supertaster?

Supertasters are people who experience the sense of taste with a far greater intensity than the average person due to an increased number of taste buds.  Some studies suggest that upwards of 25% of people, including children, may be classified as supertasters.  Research also suggests that child supertasters who exhibit chronic avoidance of vegetables may have a genetic predisposition toward aversion of bitter compounds found in vegetables.  In short, these children can’t help their negative reaction to bitter, pungent, or spicy foods; they simply taste these flavors more intensly than others.

Although a child may be supertaster, they can learn to enjoy eating vegetables.  But, the vegetable dishes served to them must be prepared in a way that masks bitterness, enhances natural sweetness, and does not overwhelm childrens’ sensitive palates.  The use of natural flavor enhancers like salt, sweeteners like honey or sugar, and fats like butter or cream aid the home cook in preparing tempting vegetable dishes that children can enjoy.

Incorporating more vegetables and whole foods into your childs diet doesn’t have to be a battle. Ask your children to try “just one bite”of a dish taste tested and rated by a panel of kid food critics.   They may suprise you, smile, and willingly take a second bite.

Supertaster Research:

  • Body type has been found to be closely related to ability to taste.  Supertasters tend to be thinner and have less cardiovascular problems due to dislike of fatty foods.
  • The term “supertaster” was first coined by Psychologist Linda Bartoshuk and her colleagues in the 1990s.  In their research, they noticed some people tested in their experiments seemed to have a much higher taste response.  However, they only coined the phrase and further studied the differences between taste sensitivity; the difference in ability to distinguish taste strengths had already been discovered.  Specifically, work was done about 70 years previous by A.L. Fox, a chemist,  who noticed that some people reported phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) as being bitter, while others couldn’t taste it.  Later, Roland Fischer, in the 1960s, discovered that PROP, which was later used by Linda Bartoshuk for her research, could not be tasted by non-tasters and by some medium tasters, but was extremely bitter to supertasters.
  • Though supertasters have a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular and weight problems, they run a much higher risk of colon, gynecological, and other cancers than non-supertasters.  This is thought to be due to a drastically limited intake of green vegetables, due to their disgusting taste to supertasters.
  • Women are much more likely to be supertasters than men (35% of Women vs 15% of Men)
  • Asians are much more likely to be supertasters than the rest of the world
  • Caucasian males have the lowest rate of supertasters of any known group.

“WE NEED TO MEASURE EVERYTHING WE CAN, ITS THE KEY TO WHAT WE DO.” ~Linda Bartoshuk, Ph.D., Presidential Endowed Professor of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science, University of Florida, Gainesville

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