Thursday, 17 March 2011

You May Now Have an Excuse Not to Eat Your Greens...

Have you ever wondered why some people love certain foods? I have always been flabbergasted by people who don't like chocolate - how can that be?! I recently listened to a podcast from All in the Mind on ABC's (Australia) Radio National about Supertasters which provides some answers to these important questions and also raises some important health implications.

Supertasters are basically people with more taste buds - the most in fact! More taste buds allow them to taste more intensely, for example,  bitter is extremely bitter and repulsive. On the other end of the spectrum is a Non Taster. They find what a Supertaster tasted as extremely bitter (or sweet etc) as having no taste at all.

So why have we evolved to have some people with Supertasting powers and others not so much? Researchers believe that it has something to do with poisons and being able to detect them even at low concentrations - a supertaster has an advantage here as bitter poisons are much more replusive and less likely to be eaten. However, in different environments where there are bitter plants that are safe to eat, the Supertaster would be at a disadvantage.

The realm of taste also has implications on health. Linda Bartochuk, the physcologist studying this explains it well:

'That neon taste world of the supertaster includes not just taste, sweet, salty, sour, bitter, it includes perception of fat because that's perceived by touch fibres and those fungiform papillae that supertasters have more of have touch fibres in them. It also means that a supertaster feels more pain on the tongue and more burn from irritants...

So now you're living in a world where every food you pick up is way more intense to a supertaster than to a non taster. What does that do? Well the first few things are obvious: we don't like bitter, supertasters find bitter foods particularly difficult. Alcohol has a bitter taste to supertasters this gets us into the area of drinking. Tobacco smoke is irritating to the tongues of supertasters, it gets you into smoking. Well when you've got dietary preference drinking and smoking all related to a very small number of genes, you are explaining a lot of the behaviour that has health implications.'

However, super tasters are also less likely to eat their vegies, so there is an increased risk of cancers of the gut, such as colon cancer. Makes you think differently about the humble brussel sprout, doesn't it?

Listen to the podcast at the All in the Mind website.


  1. Thats so interesting. Thanks for sharing. I love veggies though so I don't think I'm a supertaster.

  2. I think i'm half/half. Don't particularly like bitter vegies but don't find them repulsive. I think I like creamy rich things too much to be a supertaster!! :D