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A supertaster is a person whose sense of taste is of far greater intensity than the average person.

Some studies also show that an increased sensitivity to bitter tastes may be a cause of selective eating.


The term originated with experimental psychologist Linda Bartoshuk, who has spent much of her career studying genetic variation in taste perception. In the early 1980s, Bartoshuk and her colleagues noticed some individuals tested in the laboratory seemed to have an elevated taste response and called them supertasters.[1]

This increased taste response is not the result of response bias or a scaling artifact but appears to have an anatomical or biological basis.


In 1931, Arthur L. Fox, a DuPont chemist, discovered that some persons found phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) to be bitter while others found it tasteless.[2][3] At the 1931 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, Fox collaborated with Albert F. Blakeslee, a geneticist, to have attendees taste PTC: 65% found it bitter, 28% found it tasteless, and 6% described other taste qualities. Subsequent work revealed that the ability to taste PTC was genetic.


In the 1960s, Roland Fischer was the first to link the ability to taste PTC, and the related compound propylthiouracil (PROP), to food preference and body type[which?]. Today, PROP has replaced PTC in taste research because[clarification needed] of a faint sulfurous odor and safety concerns with PTC.[4] As described above, Bartoshuk and colleagues discovered that the taster group could be further divided into medium tasters and supertasters.[5] Research suggests 25% of the population are non-tasters,[6] 50% are medium tasters, and 25% are supertasters.[7]


The exact cause of heightened response to taste in humans has currently yet to be elucidated. A review found associations between supertasters and the presence of the TAS2R38 gene, the ability to taste PROP and PTC, and an increased number of fungiform papillae.[8]

In addition, it's also hypothesized that environmental causes are likely to play a substantial role in sensitive taste. The exact mechanisms by which these may act are still unknown.[9][10] An evolutionary advantage for elevated taste sensitivity is also still being determined. In some environments, a heightened taste response, particularly to bitterness, would represent an important advantage in avoiding potentially toxic plant alkaloids. However, an increased response to bitterness may limit approach behavior for various palatable foods.


The bitter-taste-receptor gene TAS2R38 has been associated with the ability to taste PROP[11] and PTC.[12] However, it has not been demonstrated to be a causal mechanism of the supertaster phenomenon.[13] Still, the T2R38 genotype has been linked to a preference for sweetness in children,[14] avoidance of alcoholic beverages,[11] the increased prevalence of colon cancer (because of inadequate vegetable consumption),[15] and avoidance of cigarette smoking.[16]



Women are more likely to be supertasters, as are those from Asia, South America, and Africa.[6] Female supertasters have a lower body mass index and better cardiovascular health. This can be due to the fact that supertasters do not have a high predilection for sweet or high-fat foods.[17]


The tongue's fungiform papillae are revealed with blue food dye.

Supertasters were initially identified based on the perceived intensity of propylthiouracil (PROP) compared to a reference salt solution. Supertasters consume more salt in comparison to those with average taste.[18] Because supertasters have a larger sense of taste than medium or non-tasters, this can cause Image scaling artifacts.[3] Subsequently, salt has been replaced with a non-oral gustatory standard. Therefore, if two individuals rate the same gustatory stimulus at a comparable perceptual intensity, but one gives a rating twice as large for the bitterness of a PROP solution, the experimenter can be confident the difference is real and not merely the result of how the person is using the scale.[citation needed] Today, a phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) test strip is used to help determine if someone is a low taster. The general population tastes this as bitter about 75% of the time.[19]

Many studies do not include a cross-modal reference and categorize individuals based on the bitterness of a concentrated PROP solution[20][21] or PROP-impregnated paper.[22] Supertasters tend to have more fungiform papillae and pain receptors than tasters and non-tasters.[23] It is also possible to make a reasonably accurate self-diagnosis at home by carefully examining the tongue and looking for the number of fungiform papillae.[24] Blue food dye can make this easier. Being a supertaster or non-taster is part of normal variation in the human population, as are eye color and hair color, so no treatment is needed to avoid cigarette smoking.[citation needed]

Specific food sensitivities[edit]

Although individual food preference for supertasters cannot be typified, documented examples for either lessened preference or consumption include:

Other foods may also show altered patterns of preference and consumption, but only indirect evidence exists:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bartoshuk, L. M. (1991). "Sweetness: history, preference, and genetic variability". Food Technology. 45 (11): 108–13. ISSN 0015-6639. INIST:5536670.
  2. ^ Fox, Arthur L (1931). "Six in ten 'tasteblind' to bitter chemical". The Science News-Letter. 9: 249.[verification needed]
  3. ^ a b Bartoshuk, LM (2000). "Psychophysical advances aid the study of genetic variation in taste". Appetite. 34 (1): 105. doi:10.1006/appe.1999.0287. PMID 10744897. S2CID 30300307.
  4. ^ Juliana Texley; Terry Kwan; John Summers (1 January 2004). Investigating Safely: A Guide for High School Teachers. NSTA Press. pp. 90–. ISBN 978-0-87355-202-8.
  5. ^ Di Lorenzo, Patricia M.; Youngentob, Steven L. (15 April 2003). "Olfaction and Taste". Handbook of Psychology: wei0310. doi:10.1002/0471264385.wei0310. ISBN 0471264385.
  6. ^ a b Science of supertasters BBC
  7. ^ Roxby, Philippa (9 December 2012). "Why taste is all in the senses". BBC News Health.
  8. ^ Bartoshuk, Linda M.; Duffy, Valerie B.; Miller, Inglis J. (1994). "PTC/PROP tasting: Anatomy, psychophysics, and sex effects". Physiology & Behavior. 56 (6): 1165–71. doi:10.1016/0031-9384(94)90361-1. PMID 7878086. S2CID 40598794.
  9. ^ Navarro-Allende, Alejandra; Khataan, Nora; El-Sohemy, Ahmed (16 September 2008). "Impact of Genetic and Environmental Determinants of Taste with Food Preferences in Older Adults". Journal of Nutrition for the Elderly. 27 (3–4): 267–276. doi:10.1080/01639360802261920. PMID 19042575. S2CID 44506616.
  10. ^ "Myths of Human Genetics: PTC tasting".
  11. ^ a b Duffy, Valerie B.; Davidson, Andrew C.; Kidd, Judith R.; Kidd, Kenneth K.; Speed, William C.; Pakstis, Andrew J.; Reed, Danielle R.; Snyder, Derek J.; Bartoshuk, Linda M. (2004). "Bitter Receptor Gene (TAS2R38), 6-n-Propylthiouracil (PROP) Bitterness and Alcohol Intake". Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. 28 (11): 1629–37. doi:10.1097/01.ALC.0000145789.55183.D4. PMC 1397913. PMID 15547448.
  12. ^ Bufe, Bernd; Breslin, Paul A.S.; Kuhn, Christina; Reed, Danielle R.; Tharp, Christopher D.; Slack, Jay P.; Kim, Un-Kyung; Drayna, Dennis; Meyerhof, Wolfgang (2005). "The Molecular Basis of Individual Differences in Phenylthiocarbamide and Propylthiouracil Bitterness Perception". Current Biology. 15 (4): 322–7. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.01.047. PMC 1400547. PMID 15723792.
  13. ^ Hayes, J. E.; Bartoshuk, L. M.; Kidd, J. R.; Duffy, V. B. (2008). "Supertasting and PROP Bitterness Depends on More Than the TAS2R38 Gene". Chemical Senses. 33 (3): 255–65. doi:10.1093/chemse/bjm084. PMID 18209019.
  14. ^ Mennella, J. A.; Pepino, MY; Reed, DR (2005). "Genetic and Environmental Determinants of Bitter Perception and Sweet Preferences". Pediatrics. 115 (2): e216–22. doi:10.1542/peds.2004-1582. PMC 1397914. PMID 15687429.
  15. ^ Basson, Marc D.; Bartoshuk, Linda M.; Dichello, Susan Z.; Panzini, Lisa; Weiffenbach, James M.; Duffy, Valerie B. (2005). "Association Between 6-n-Propylthiouracil (PROP) Bitterness and Colonic Neoplasms". Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 50 (3): 483–9. doi:10.1007/s10620-005-2462-7. PMID 15810630. S2CID 21099629.
  16. ^ Cannon, Dale; Baker, Timothy; Piper, Megan; Scholand, Mary Beth; Lawrence, Daniel; Drayna, Dennis; McMahon, William; Villegas, G.Martin; Caton, Trace; Coon, Hilary; Leppert, Mark (2005). "Associations between phenylthiocarbamide gene polymorphisms and cigarette smoking". Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 7 (6): 853–8. doi:10.1080/14622200500330209. PMID 16298720.
  17. ^ "Super-Tasters and Non-Tasters: Is it Better to Be Average?". The Nutrition Source. 2016-05-31. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  18. ^ Knox, Richard (16 June 2010). "For Supertasters, A Desire For Salt Is Genetic". Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  19. ^ "PTC the Genetics of Bitter Taste".
  20. ^ Prescott, J.; Ripandelli, N.; Wakeling, I. (2001). "Binary Taste Mixture Interactions in PROP Non-tasters, Medium-tasters and Super-tasters". Chemical Senses. 26 (8): 993–1003. doi:10.1093/chemse/26.8.993. PMID 11595676.
  21. ^ a b Lanier, S; Hayes, J; Duffy, V (2005). "Sweet and bitter tastes of alcoholic beverages mediate alcohol intake in of-age undergraduates". Physiology & Behavior. 83 (5): 821–31. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2004.10.004. PMID 15639168. S2CID 40244872.
  22. ^ Sipiora, M.L; Murtaugh, M.A; Gregoire, M.B; Duffy, V.B (2000). "Bitter taste perception and severe vomiting in pregnancy". Physiology & Behavior. 69 (3): 259–67. doi:10.1016/S0031-9384(00)00223-7. PMID 10869591. S2CID 26518676.
  23. ^ "Super-Tasters and Non-Tasters: Is it Better to Be Average?". The Nutrition Source. May 31, 2016. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  24. ^ "Super-Tasting Science: Find Out If You're a "Supertaster"!". Scientific American. December 27, 2012. Retrieved 2021-07-18.
  25. ^ a b c Drewnowski, Adam; Henderson, Susan Ahlstrom; Levine, Alisa; Hann, Clayton (2007). "Taste and food preferences as predictors of dietary practices in young women". Public Health Nutrition. 2 (4): 513–519. doi:10.1017/S1368980099000695. PMID 10656470.
  26. ^ a b c d Drewnowski, Adam; Henderson, Susan Ahlstrom; Barratt-Fornell, Anne (2001). "Genetic taste markers and food preferences". Drug Metabolism and Disposition. 29 (4 Pt 2): 535–8. PMID 11259346.
  27. ^ a b Dinehart, M.E.; Hayes, J.E.; Bartoshuk, L.M.; Lanier, S.L.; Duffy, V.B. (2006). "Bitter taste markers explain variability in vegetable sweetness, bitterness, and intake". Physiology & Behavior. 87 (2): 304–13. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2005.10.018. PMID 16368118. S2CID 24387624.
  28. ^ Sandell, Mari; Breslin, Paul (October 2006), "Variability in a taste-receptor gene determines whether we taste toxins in food", Current Biology, 16 (18): R792–4, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.08.049, PMID 16979544
  29. ^ "Health Report – 22/12/1997: Super Tasters". 7 January 1998. Retrieved 2013-08-29.
  30. ^ "Love Salt? You Might Be a "Supertaster"". Retrieved 2014-12-09.
  31. ^ "Super-Tasters and Non-Tasters: Is it Better to Be Average?". The Nutrition Source. 2016-05-31. Retrieved 2020-06-04.

External links[edit]

Along with citation 5: Title: Olfaction and taste. Di Lorenzo, P.M., and Youngtentob, S.L. 2010. In M. Gallagher and R.J. Nelson (Eds.), Handbook of psychology, (Vol. 3): Biological psychology. New York: Wiley.