a supertaster. A nontaster and those who
fall into a midrange of tasting, as most
of the population does, will have different sensations from bland to barely bitter when using the chemical strip test to
detect this characteristic. Nontasters will
not be able to taste the PROP or PTC. The
general population may find the taste
slightly bitter but not terribly objectionable. However, the supertaster will find it
to be extremely bitter and almost intolerable in many cases. Candy or mints are
often given to supertasters after reacting
in order to diminish the bitter taste from
Interestingly, research indicates that
nontasters tend to have a greater preference for alcohol and actually consume
more alcoholic beverages. Taste preferences tend to vary with age and some
research supports the fact that the inclination to avoid bitter may wane with age
and after menopause in women.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS
OR THE DRAWBACKS?
It appears that most individuals know
from childhood that they have peculiar
taste sensations and food choices, but
they don’t really understand why. Knowing a child is a supertaster could be very
beneficial, because parents tend to push
green vegetables toward their children at
an early age.
Recent studies by Shetty et al. (2014)
found that supertasters actually do not
care for sweet foods. In this study, children who were supertasters were found to
have less caries than their counterparts
who were nontasters. The nontasters,
who had more carious lesions, tended to
favor sweet/high sugar foods. High fructose corn syrup is linked to the obesity
epidemic that we have seen in the United
States over the past three decades.
Other studies have also reported that
supertasters tend to be thinner because
of their food choices and their tendency
to avoid sweet/sugary foods. Supertasters
have also been found to have better im-
mune function and better ability to avoid
bacterial sinus infections because of re-
ceptors in their nose. This is also a valu-
able characteristic to protect against
respiratory infections. It is believed that
this is an innate protective mechanism of
One reported negative is that the lack
of green vegetables may place them in a
higher risk category for colon disease. Ad-
ditionally, the increased use of salt may
place supertasters at a higher risk for hy-
pertension when used in larger quantities
to mask bitter tastes.
Clinically, it has been found that super-
tasters have an abundance of fungiform
papillae (see Figure 1). Researchers be-
lieve that the taste buds are abundant in
the fungiform papillae and contribute to
the keen taste that supertasters exhibit.
Taste receptors in other locations of the
continued on pg. 102
A special appreciation for images and
research on supertasters by Carol Perkins,
RDH, in San Ramon, Calif. Carol is a dental
hygienist in the office of Dr. Steven Chew in
Benson PW, Hooker JB, Kock KL, Weinberg RB.
Bitter taster status predicts susceptibility to
vection-induced motion sickness and nausea.
Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2012 Feb: 24( 2):134-
Duffy VB, Davidson AC, Kidd JR, Kidd KK,
Speed WC, Pakstis AJ, Reed DR, Snyder DJ,
Bartoshuk LM. Bitter receptor gene (TAS2R38),
6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) bitterness and
alcohol intake. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004 Nov;
Hayes JE, Keast RSJ. Two decades of supertast-ing: where do we stand? Physiol Behav. 2011
October 24; 104( 5): 1072-1074. Doi: 10.1016/j.
Lee RJ, Cohen NA. The emerging role of bitter taste receptor T2R38 in upper respiratory
infection and chronic rhinosinusitis. IS J Rhinol
Allergy 2013 Jul-Aug: 274( 14): 283-6.
Shetty V, Pooja BL, Hegde AM. PROP test:
prediction of caries risk by genetic taste perception among the visually impaired children.
Spec Care Dent. 34( 1) 2014.
Lunch Break: How to know if you are a
Figure 1: Unstained fungiform papillae. Note
the large fungiform papillae of a supertaster.
Figure 2: Stained numerous fungiform of
same supertaster using blue coloring.
Figure 3: Standard hole punch used to isolate an area of fungiform papillae. These are
counted within the hole.
Reddy, Sumathi. People Who Taste Too Much.