Supertasters and the Genetics of discerning sweet and sour
What your mother and father ate, might have an effect on what you like and don’t like to eat, and ultimately impact the outcome of your health. People who enjoy eating a salty diet may have problems with hyper tension and heart disease. People who have a taste for sweets may battle with diabetes or other ailments.
In a study called Diverse Tastes, Genetics of Sweet and Bitter Taste Perception, Danielle R. Reed, Toshiko Tanaka, and Amanda H. McDaniel studied biogenetics and taste perceptions.
The study showed that humans had a pre-disposition to liking sweetness or saltiness, based upon certain consistencies of the taste sensors on their tongue, soft palate, and the back of their throat. Humans actually have five distinct categories for flavors: sweet, salt, sour, bitter, and umami or savoriness (meats, cheeses). There is a possible sixth category that this study calls out named fat.
Just like humans have a variety of ranges of hearing and seeing, we also have ranges of taste perception. The breakdown of how we perceive taste is explained by first suggesting that there are several systems that work together. There is biological path (the physical make up of cells) which we recognize now as DNA, which is our cell make up.
There is also the physical path of ingesting, chewing, and salivating. Certain chemical compositions occur when mixing the flavors. In some cases our body reacts to tastes by our eyes watering, or the back of our throat watering. Other times, salt can tone down the flavor of bitter like coffee. Sweet sugar can tone down the flavor of acid.
At the same time there is the body’s journey of processing the food that includes the eyes, the nose, and the digestive system, that starts with the tongue. How it all works is quite fascinating, with three different types of taste receptors in our mouth, certain ones prone to certain areas, like the front of the tongue, and the back of the tongue. Then there are different communicators that take this back to the brain in three different ways. All of this information intermingles in the brain and presumably, it makes the decision to like or not like the taste.
Because of the many variables, these scientists tried to isolate and then correlate various data elements to attempt to predict how a patient would perceive a certain taste. It appeared to them that the taste sensors are communicating locally and long distance back to the brain for a team work approach to the way we perceive tastes.
There were certain predictors that could indicate how a person would react to a certain taste based upon their biology, living environment and DNA. These differences were categorically related to families and heritage with blood lines reacting to certain tastes a certain way. (Diverse tastes)
Supertasters are like those that have better than 20/20 vision, or 100% hearing, they are ultra sensitive to flavors and tastes. CNN reports on supertasters, “John Hayes, Ph.D., an assistant professor of food science at the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, in University Park, says “There are supertasters and non-tasters. Supertasters live in a neon taste world — everything is bright and vibrant. For non-tasters, everything is pastel. Nothing is ever really intense.” (CNN.com)
The study by Dr. Hayes was released through the journal of Physiology and Behavior and suggests that those that use a lot of salt may be trying to cancel out bitter tastes. Out of their sample, they found about 25% of their sample population to be supertasters.