Your tastebuds may determine health status

February 18, 2003 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Your tastebuds may determine health status

Are you a supertaster? According to new research from Linda Bartoshuk or Yale University, biological differences in our sense of taste have such an influence on our diets that they may help determine which diseases we might be susceptible to.

The "neon taste world" of people who Dr. Bartoshuk calls "supertasters" is roughly three times as intense as the "pastel world" of the nontasters. This is because the tongues of supertasters have a higher concentration of taste bud-containing structures than the tongues of less taste-sensitive people.

"The ability to taste bitter substances has always been associated with poison detection, but now we have found all these health associations." Bartoshuk said. "We know people's whole diets are different, based on their taste sensitivity."

Because taste buds also detect the sensations of touch and pain, supertasters are the most sensitive to the heat of chilis, for example, and the feel of fat. Supertasters also tend to avoid very sweet, high fat foods, according to Bartoshuk, but are also generally averse to vegetables, which taste unpleasantly bitter to them.

As a group, supertasters tend to be thinner and healthier, but their veggie aversion may lead to a higher risk of certain cancers, Bartoshuk has found. Studying the colonoscopies of a group of older men, a correlation was found between the number of polyps and the ability to taste bitterness. The men with more polyps reported eating the fewest vegetables and were heavier; both risk factors for colon cancer.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.