Taste & Smell Lab

Dr. Linda Bartoshuk with a research subject

Taste & Smell Research

We live in different taste worlds. Individuals are born with varying numbers of fungiform papillae, and those with the most papillae experience the most intense taste sensations. We categorize these individuals as nontasters, medium tasters and supertasters.

Supertasters live in a neon taste world experiencing three times the sensation of bitterness, sweetness or spiciness in foods compared with nontasters. Twenty-five percent of the population are nontasters and 25 percent are supertasters. The other 50 percent fall in the medium taster category. Taster status not only influences your food choices, but it also effects your health. Supertasters are less likely to eat bitter green vegetables and also are less interested in sweets and fatty foods. This explains why they have fewer cardivascular issues but are more prone to colon cancer.

Each taste bud is surrounded by a basket of pain nerves, more tastebuds mean more pain nerves, causing supertasters to experience three times the burn that nontasters experience. This explains why for some people coffee is too bitter or why some people can tolerate hot peppers.