What's the science behind 'super taster' taste buds?
April 14, 2019 8:50 AM   Subscribe

A friend jokes that I'll eat anything, and I joke that he's way too picky. Last year we did a test for super- / non-taster taste buds, and he hit super taster while I hit non-taster. I'm sort of suspicious of this for the pop-biology sheen, but have recently been wondering if a lot of personal tastes might come down to not being overwhelmed by certain notes in a food (e.g. bitterness in coffee, which I love and he hates) that might come with having more sensitive taste buds. Has this been studied in depth beyond some sort of at-home test they sell on the Internet?
posted by codacorolla to Science & Nature (3 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a brief scholarly overview of some of the science of tasting and supertasters over the past 60 years or so.

Of note:
Although there are tests developed to assess human hearing, vision, and smell, there is no brief but comprehensive test for tasting ability.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:55 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]

There’s a lot of science on this. I suspect I’m a super taster, as I hate all the foods supertasters hate (coffee, alcohol, bitter vegetables). I read a book that discussed it a long time ago, and a scientist studying this said counting taste buds is more accurate than the PROP test, which is what I’m guessing you did. Here’s a Scientific American article on how to do it. This test, by the way, strongly puts me in the supertaster category.
posted by FencingGal at 9:34 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]

There’s so much cool science on this and it gets pretty dense pretty fast. You might want to poke around on the highly reputable Monell Chemical Senses Center.

posted by forkisbetter at 10:45 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]

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