The subject of Supertasters was recently brought up in our office, and admittedly they're a group I didn't know a lot about - until now. And they're quite an intriguing bunch! By definition, a "Supertaster" is someone who experiences the sense of taste with extreme intensity - much more than you or I could imagine (unless you're a Supertaster, of course!). The density of their tastes buds is anywhere from 10 to 100 times that of the normal person, so it makes sense that their experience with food is vastly different. The term "supertasters" was coined by Linda Bartoshuk, a psychologist who studied the genetic variation in taste perception throughout her career. But research relating to supertasters started even before that, in the 1931 when a chemist named L.A. Fox discovered that some people found the chemical (phenylthiocarbamide) to be extremely bitter, while others found it to have no taste at all. While it's not known exactly what causes someone to be a supertaster, it's widely thought that it has something to do with the presence of the TAS2R38 gene, which causes carriers to very strongly taste PROP (6-n-propylthiouracil) and PCT, two chemicals that have very little to no taste to normal "tasters".
The condition of being a super taster is genetic. It's estimated that about 25% of the population are supertasters, and of those, the slight majority are women. There's a specific demographic of folks who are more prone to being supertasters too, including those of Asian, African and South American descent.
Now while you might think - 'hey, I wish I was a supertaster', its' not always as fun as it seems. While the sense of taste is heightened for supertasters, it can often be to an unpleasant level, making things like coffee and hoppy beer too bitter, and things like a sweet dessert too rich. Even alcohol is sometimes unpalatable! And can you imagine not being happy to indulge in a big slice of cake, or a cool cocktail on a hot summer's day?
This handy graphic lays it out for you visually:
While there are certain benefits to being a super taster - including the tendency to avoid foods high in fat, sugar and salt, supertasters also tend to avoid foods like green veggies because of their bitter taste, which means important nutrients are being left out of their diet.
So you think you might be a supertaster, or know someone that is? There are numerous sources online (here and here, for starters) that will guide you through a "test" to see if you have the characteristics of a supertaster. We haven't given it a try, but if you do, come on back here and let us know what you find!
Already a known supertaster? We'd love to hear your perspective of what living life as a supertaster is all about!