Lick it Baby

Thursday, June 15, 2006

yep, its my tongue, stainedI blame Heidi for this. She just had to post a link for a bbc article on taste buds and super tasters.

I’ve enjoyed watching shows about this topic in the past, especially watching Alan Alda swab his tongue on Scientific American Frontiers.

As the bbc site shows, seeing your fungiform papillae, which are like apartment complexes for your taste buds, is as easy as swabbing food coloring on your tongue.

My technique was to then tongue the scanner, while hoping the neighbors weren’t looking in the window. This process was much easier than taking a sharp photo of my tongue!

With the fungiform highlighted, it is now possible to count these complexes and see where you fit in the scheme of supertasters and such. My count puts me way over the 30 count used to define a supertaster according to the BBC site procedure.

So… what exactly does it mean if you have a higher density of taste buds than most? Does that mean you taste more accutely, or your body had to overcompensate for poorly working taste buds by producing more papillae?

According to another BBC online food article, “The more taste buds you have, the more intensely you perceive tastes, especially bitter ones.”

Additionally, from the same article: “The supertaster gene could be a remnant of our evolutionary past, acting as a safety mechanism to stop us eating unsafe foods and toxins.

Nowadays, the supertaster gene appears to affect people’s wellbeing in other ways. Take flavonoids for example. These are the healthy antioxidant chemicals found in fruit and vegetables. Flavonoids taste unpleasantly bitter to supertasters, so they often avoid foods which contain high levels of them. On the other hand, they tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, because they also shy away from very fatty, salty and sugary foods.”

I tend to disagree with the last part of this statement personally! I find myself craving the sugary and fatty food group. Also, in regards to flavor intensity, fatty foods tend to have a damper on flavor output in my opinion. Personally, I think supertasters may be more attracted to sugary food as sugar sweet flavors tend to counteract bitterness in foods.

More science news articles on supertasters:


posted June 15th, 2006 at 3:02 pm

Also, the more taste buds you have, the more velvety your tongue is — and the more pleasant you are to kiss!

  • :grinning: surprising that the research article fail to mention this highlight!


posted June 16th, 2006 at 5:48 am

Yes I agree with you, supertasters are not really needed for delicious food.
I think the natural taste of food is a good hint for the food being healthy and fresh. Supertasters spoil the pleasure of a meal.

  • It was pointed out that the healthiest food isn’t often of the most eatable tastes. Bitter notes in greens are a good example of flavors in healthy foods that are often un-palatable.

    I think (interesting idea- will have to go research it) that children are supertasters and that their taste buds get culled down as they age. I believe that part of the struggle with some children to eat ‘healthy foods’ is that they are served these foods in a way in which the flavor is simply too overwhelming for their palates.


posted June 16th, 2006 at 7:39 am

Damn you. Now I’ve got to go buy food coloring and reinforcment circles. Both of which will sit around for a couple of years until I throw them away.{sigh}

  • agree with you on the food coloring! I toggle back and forth on whether my neon blue food coloring fits into my food aesthetic! I have to admidt for all my buy local and then organic penchants- the evil looking food coloring often wins!

    For the correct circle size, I found a piece of paper that was hole-punched for a binder and scanned that in too.


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