I’ve enjoyed watching shows about this topic in the past, especially watching Alan Alda swab his tongue on Scientific American Frontiers.
As the bbc site shows, seeing your fungiform papillae, which are like apartment complexes for your taste buds, is as easy as swabbing food coloring on your tongue.
My technique was to then tongue the scanner, while hoping the neighbors weren’t looking in the window. This process was much easier than taking a sharp photo of my tongue!
With the fungiform highlighted, it is now possible to count these complexes and see where you fit in the scheme of supertasters and such. My count puts me way over the 30 count used to define a supertaster according to the BBC site procedure.
So… what exactly does it mean if you have a higher density of taste buds than most? Does that mean you taste more accutely, or your body had to overcompensate for poorly working taste buds by producing more papillae?
According to another BBC online food article, “The more taste buds you have, the more intensely you perceive tastes, especially bitter ones.”
Additionally, from the same article: “The supertaster gene could be a remnant of our evolutionary past, acting as a safety mechanism to stop us eating unsafe foods and toxins.
Nowadays, the supertaster gene appears to affect people’s wellbeing in other ways. Take flavonoids for example. These are the healthy antioxidant chemicals found in fruit and vegetables. Flavonoids taste unpleasantly bitter to supertasters, so they often avoid foods which contain high levels of them. On the other hand, they tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, because they also shy away from very fatty, salty and sugary foods.”
I tend to disagree with the last part of this statement personally! I find myself craving the sugary and fatty food group. Also, in regards to flavor intensity, fatty foods tend to have a damper on flavor output in my opinion. Personally, I think supertasters may be more attracted to sugary food as sugar sweet flavors tend to counteract bitterness in foods.
More science news articles on supertasters:
- ‘Supertasters’ diet raises cancer risk
- Appetite for Destruction
- From “Supertaster” to the Taste-blind
- PROP (6-n-Propylthiouracil) Supertasters and the Saltiness of NaCl