Good taste: who are supermasters
September 2, 2020
There are more than 10 thousand taste buds on the human tongue. They are responsible for our sensations from food: one and the same dish may seem sugary-sweet to someone, and insipid to someone. And then there are people with a special modification of genes who are more sensitive to tastes and aromas than others. Diet Myths author Tim Spector calls them supermasters.
A bit of science
Our ability to discern tastes affects not only what we eat, but also how and in what quantity. It is generally accepted that there are five main tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami (MSG gives it to food). Some researchers also distinguish the sixth taste – kokumi – which is defined as “fullness of the mouth”.
The receptors in our tongue are responsible for the sensitivity to tastes. By the way, they are regenerated every 10 days. And genes control receptors. It turns out that our love for sweets is not a whim at all, but an innate feature.
Evolution of genes
Most likely, our genes evolved while our ancestors moved around the planet and tried different types of herbs, berries and fruits. At the same time, the degree of taste perception still varies among people.
Sweetened genes are more common in Europeans than in Africa or Asia.
An experiment by Dupont in 1931 showed that 30% of people do not taste the chemical called PROP at all, 50% find it bitter, and 20% find it very unpleasant.
Most of the genes belong to two families: TAS1R and TAS2R. At the same time, there are at least three gene variations for the perception of sweetness, more than five for umami, and about forty for bitter taste.
Interestingly, the receptors for sweet and bitter are not only on the tongue, but also in the nose and throat. They are the first to fail if the mucous membranes undergo a viral attack for a long time – this explains, for example, the loss of smell in coronavirus.
Back to the supermasters
People with a special modification of one of the TAS2R genes are usually called supermasters. They are more responsive to the already mentioned PROP substance, are very sensitive to aromas and are more picky about food.
Because of this sensitivity, supermasters cannot eat many vegetables because they find them too bitter: this includes broccoli, cabbage, garlic, soy, and chili. Such people also avoid beer and rarely smoke – cigarettes, in their opinion, are very bitter.
Don’t like broccoli? Perhaps you are just a supermaster. A source
How are taste and weight related?
Selectivity in food, on the one hand, deprives supermasters of the opportunity to enjoy the richness of tastes, on the other hand, it makes them healthier. Research has shown that people with the TAS2R gene are generally leaner and fitter.
But is it true that our taste preferences affect weight? Yes and no. Scientists from the UK in 2007 compared twins with a sweet tooth. It turned out that the differences between them in weight and the amount of fat are only 50% due to genetics, and 50% – to culture and environment.
And one more good news. According to most studies, there is very little relationship between genes for a sweet tooth and increased body fat. This means that it is in our power to eat right and feel better.
Based on the book “Myths about diets”
Cover photo from here