They are very interested in learning more about cooking so that they can make some of their own sauces and understand proper seasoning and cooking techniques. Where they run into a challenge is with their opposing tastes. When I mention taste I don’t mean liking different foods, but rather how their taste buds are different from one another.
She explained to me that he was a supertaster and she was a nontaster. I looked at her with a very confused look and had no clue what she talking about? Was this some new foodie club that someone created?
She explained that there was a test that could be taken that measures the number of taste buds on your tongue and how you react to certain flavors. Evidently not all tongues are created the same and this test explains why some people dislike foods that others love.
About 25 percent of Americans are supertasters, a group with an unusually high number of papilla – the tiny bumps on the tongue that house the taste buds. Supertasters experience certain flavors at a high level – making certain bitter, spicy and sweet ingredients too strong to bear.
On the other end of the spectrum are nontasters who experience flavor at a level that is neither heightened nor elevated. For them food is food and many flavors that are off the charts for supertasters are mundane or practically absent to the nontasters.
Research in this area has been made since the 1930’s, and in 1991, a scientist at Yale coined the term supertasters. The findings have been used to study trends and indicators in obesity and addiction.
Evidence suggests supertasters are more sensitive to bitter flavors and the fat content in food. They show lower acceptance of foods that are high in these taste qualities. They tend to dislike strong, bitter foods like broccoli, grapefruit juice, coffee and dark chocolate.
This aversion to bitterness may put supertasters at risk for certain cancers that bitter compounds can protect against. A pilot study on colon cancer conducted at the Wayne State University School of Medicine showed that the number of cancerous polyps a patient had was directly related to tasting ability.
However, recent studies have shown that supertasters may be in danger of high blood pressure due to an increased sodium intake. They tend to reach for the salt shaker to mask the pronounced flavor of bitterness in many foods they encounter.
For example, low-sodium cheese was sampled and the supertaster found it to be extremely bitter, but when tasting the same cheese with normal salt content the supertaster liked the cheese.
Another study has shown that nontasters might have a greater preference for alcohol, and a higher risk for alcoholism. They gave significantly lower intensity ratings for the bitterness, astringency and acidity of alcohol than the supertasters. The intensity of bitterness and acidity in alcohol, especially red wine, were too strong for the supertasters.
So which taster are you? Are you a supertaster, nontaster or somewhere in between? There are tests that can be taken on the internet that will determine your taste through a questionnaire. Or you can send off for a kit that contains a swab holding a compound that is a clear indicator for supertasters. When placed on the tongue it is extremely bitter to a supertaster. For a nontaster it tastes like nothing.
I took one of the questionnaire tests designed by Cornell University and it said I was a supertaster. I was surprised by the results because there aren’t many foods that I dislike, and when I am turned off by food, it is usually because of texture, not flavor.
However, bitter foods like coffee, brussel sprouts or dark chocolate were things I acquired a taste for after several years. But like other human characteristics, I believe your palate matures over time and foods you didn’t enjoy when young can become favorites later in life.
On the other hand, being a nontaster would explain why some choose to push the limits of flavor on foods that are spicy, rich or highly seasoned. They need to amp things so they can have an equal taste experience as the supertasters.
Whatever it all means it’s just another way to explain why we do or do not like certain foods – because like most things it’s all a matter of personal taste.