In a restaurant with a vibrant dessert menu, a waitress was required to serve desserts to three different diners. Afterwards she decided to gather their feedback. The first diner made a face, claiming that her dessert was far too sweet, rendering her incapable of finishing the entire portion. On asking the second diner, he replied that his dessert was just fine, nothing too special but nothing off balance about it either. Finally, the third diner looked up placidly, unimpressed and said that his dessert was not sweet enough and tasted bland to him. The waitress returned to her station, astounded upon hearing their three responses. They had all, oddly enough, eaten the same dessert. A brownie sundae.
Now the question arises, how can three individuals perceive the very same sundae so differently? The answer lies on the tip of your tongue! In the above hypothetical situation, the three existing types of tasters have been illustrated, namely supertasters, normal tasters and non tasters.
Supertasters as the name suggests have a heightened sense of gustation, being able to experience greater intensity than an average taster.
If you happen to be a supertaster you can enjoy sweets in an escalated form of their creamy glory but you must also be prepared to face the enhanced bitter wrath of dark chocolate. Call it a boon or a bane; supertasters must learn to take the rough with the smooth. Non tasters on the other hand always strive for more intensity since it takes more to get the flavour out of food.
Imagine various tastes in your mouth corresponding to a broad spectrum of colours. Each taste is a masterful blend of flavours just as secondary hues can be created with the help of primary colours. According to physiological psychologist, Linda Bartoshuk, supertasters are said to live in a ‘neon’ taste world while others live in a ‘pastel’ world.
Supertasters are more likely to avoid certain foods like green vegetables, sweets, caffeinated substances, carbonated drinks, fatty foods and certain alcoholic beverages. They also avoid smoking cigarettes. However, supertasters still like salt because it plays a key role in not only saltiness but helps cancel out bitterness in certain items like cheese. This is like a welcome repressor to the super tasting tongue.
Since supertasters skimp on eating bitter vegetables, they are deprived of flavinoids and isothiocyanates which are essential cancer prevention agents. Hence their risk for colon cancer is considerably raised. The amount of food they can find palatable is limited due to their strong aversion to sweet or bitter tastes leading, ultimately, to picky eating.
Non tasters have a dulled sense of taste, unable to experience intensity of any sort.
Non tasters require more spice, more fat and more sugar. Since average flavour is not enough for non tasters, they have a predisposition to eat extremely sugar loaded sweets and high fatty foods thus rocketing their risk for heart disease. They also have a tendency to put on weight leading to obesity.
My father was a non taster and would always sprinkle his pizza with a thick coat of chilli flakes till we couldn’t see the cheese any longer. I, as an average taster, found it unbearably hot while my father ate the pizza slice like it was perfectly fine. This is just one example that I can cite.
Other health issues faced by non tasters are dental caries (due to excessive sugar consumption), goiter and congenital arthritic cretinism. By being less sensitive to bitterness, they do not have an aversion to cigarettes. Hence non tasters are at a greater risk for nicotine addiction and can become chain smokers.
So who wins in the end, supertasters or non tasters?
In truth, it’s neither. For once it pays to be just average.