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December 1, 2009, last updated January 4, 2012
By Sara Ott, Associate Editor and  Featured Columnist

What Is a Supertaster?

Most of us are born with about 10,000 taste buds. These
taste buds give us the ability to sense salt, sweet, sour bitter
umami, the earthy taste that comes from slow-cooked

Compared to other animals, we humans have been
shortchanged. Some insects can taste with their antennae
and feet as well as their mouths. Fish can taste with their fins
and tails as well as their mouths.
Cows have 25,000 taste buds and rabbits have 17,000.

Our 10,000 taste buds are located mostly on our tongues.
But at birth, we also had taste buds on the sides of our
mouths and on the roof.

Women, it appears, have more taste buds than men but tend
to lose them earlier--around age 40, while men don't start to
lose the number of buds until age 60.  

Although most of us are born with 10,000 taste buds, some
of us --around 25%--are born with more.  These so-called
"supertasters" can have as many as 20,000 to 25,000 taste

For supertasters, taste is more vivid. Salt is saltier, sweet is
sweeter, bitter is more bitter, spicy is spicer.

How to Tell If You Are a Supertaster?

Research has suggested that you are more likely to be a
supertaster if you are female, or of Asian, African or South
American descent.

This sensitivity to bitter tastes is not just down to a high
number of taste buds.

Scientists have discovered that some people carry a form of
the taste bud gene that makes their taste buds more sensitive
to the bitter taste of the substance 6-n-propylthiouracil (also
known as PROP).

If you carry this gene, and you have a high number of taste
buds on your tongue, you are likely to be a supertaster.

Children are also reported to be more sensitive to bitter
flavours than adults. This might explain why children are
often picky eaters, especially when it comes to green

The Diet of a Supertaster

If you are a supertaster you may not like to eat bitter tasting
green vegetables such as broccoli. You maybe particularly
sensitive to the bitter taste of cabbage or brussel sprouts.

You may also avoid strong coffee, chocolate, salty foods, or
very sugary and sweet foods.

The Diet of an Average Taster

Average tasters tend to like sweet, fat and alcohol. Sound
familiar?  This may go a long ways toward explaining why
Americans tend to eat more fatty foods and have a sweeter
tooth than Asians or Africans or South Americans.  

[Update: A 2011 study has confirmed that your ability to
taste goes a long way toward explaining why some people
are naturally fatter than others. The study, cled by Dr. E.
Feeney and Dr. S. O'Brien from the UCD Institute of Food and
Health in the Republic of Ireland, examined the differences in
body weight between average tasters, and supertasters.

People who have a poor sense of taste, called "non-tasters"
have higher body weights than average tasters or

For those of us who are "average" tasters, fortunately, there
ways to turn your taste buds into an ally in your quest to
lose weight.


Related Links:

Taste Buds--5 Tips For Improving Your Sense of Taste

Taste Buds--The Secret to Losing Weight

Curbing Your Taste for Sweets

Curbing Your Taste for Salt

Curbing Your Taste for Alcohol and Carbs

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