Heightened senses, such as sharper than 20/20 eyesight, are usually considered a good thing, but when it comes to taste, perhaps not so much. About 25% of us could be considered “supertasters” — people who experience flavours much more intensely than the average person.
If sweets taste far more sweet to you and bitter flavours taste far more bitter than others experience them, you’re just like John Lee Superstar. How can you be sure? BBC Science posts this experiment you can do at home.
You’ll need blue food dye and hole punch reinforcers, as well as a magnifying glass and a few other common items. You’ll dye your tongue blue and stick the hole reinforcer on your tongue, then count the pink bumps on your tongue (papillae) within the ring reinforcer. (Yes, this sounds weird.) If you have more than 35 papillae, you’re likely a supertaster; 15-35 and you’re an average taster; under 15, a “non-taster” (which just means a below-average taste sensitivity, not that you don’t taste anything).
If you don’t want to dye your tongue blue, you can order an at-home test, which involves holding a strip of paper in your mouth for a few seconds. The paper is coated with a particularly bitter chemical. Most people (50%) would identify the taste as bitter, but supertasters would find the taste absolutely unbearable.
Supertasters tend to prefer salty foods and avoid dark-green vegetables as well as creamy, fatty foods. Although this sounds just like picky eaters, not all picky eaters are supertasters. Also, despite the name, being a supertaster doesn’t mean you have a super power, and even food experts and chefs aren’t necessarily supertasters.
If you find out you are a supertaster, this can help you understand potential health issues you face as a result: a predisposition to salt and possibly more risk for certain cancers if you avoid bitter vegetables altogether. On the other hand, supertasters might avoid bitter alcoholic drinks more than others do.
It’s pretty fascinating. To learn more, check out the article from the Wall Street Journal below.