"Supertasters" may be wired to find certain foods bitter

April 23, 2013 1:50:35 PM PDT
Your sense of taste has a huge impact on your health. It may cause you to avoid certain foods you should be consuming that are good for you, or eat more foods that are bad for you. Part of it may have to do with how you are genetically hardwired.

What tastes delicious to you may not taste so great to someone else. Everyone's taste buds are different.

"So you tend to get less sensitive as you get older, and some people are born more genetically sensitive to certain tastes," said Dr. Danielle Reed of the Monell Chemical Senses Center.

The genetically sensitive are known as supertasters - everything tastes more intense, but that is not always a good thing.

"Supertasters have more to do with how they perceive certain kinds of bitter," said Dr. Reed.

The bitterness is set off by certain food and drinks like dark green vegetables, beer and coffee. Every super taster is unique, for some salt tastes saltier, and sweet tastes too sweet, making rich desserts less enjoyable.

Scientists have discovered dozens of genes linked to taste, and it is thought that supertasters can taste a bitter chemical substance called "PTC" that others can't detect.

Anna Lysenko and Dr. Danielle Reed sipped a concoction that contained PTC. Lysenko is a supertaster, and Dr. Reed is not. Lysenko soon began coughing.

"It leaves a very bitter taste on the back of your tongue," said Lysenko.

The super tasting abilities have mixed health effects - some consume too much salt to block the bitterness. Those who avoid vegetable may have a higher risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. However, supertasters also tend to eat less overall, and are less likely to be obese.

A recent study found that supertasters may be better at fighting off sinus infections. It is thought that the same bitter receptors in the mouth are also in the nose, and they may help fight bacteria. It may sound strange, but it is a new focus of research.