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Are you a Supertaster? Mindless Eating & Your Taste Buds

Are you a Supertaster?

Are your taste buds to blame for mindless overeating?  They may be contributing more than you think.

Scientists divide people into three categories:  supertasters, medium tasters and nontasters.  Supertasters have a much denser distribution of taste buds than medium and nontasters.  So supertasters experience food as richer and tastier than other people.  It's an explosion of flavor in your mouth.

Approximately, 25% of people are known to be “supertasters,” 50% are medium tasters, and 25% are nontasters. 

THE DOWNSIDE

While getting the full pleasure out of food may be fun, supertasters have an increase risk of cancer, particularly colon cancer. This is mainly because they are very sensitive to bitter foods, which may make them avoid certain good-for-you vegetables that are bitter in taste like broccoli.  Instead, supertasters are also drawn to sodium and therefore use more salt.  In theory, supertasters may be using more salt to mask the bitter taste of foods.  This increases their risk for a heart attack.

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The upside for female supertasters is that they often avoid sweet, high fat foods, which makes them less vulnerable to cardiac problems and obesity.  It makes sense.  Supertasters don’t need much sweetness or fat in their meals because a little goes a long way for them.  Male supertasters, on the other hand, are more likely to be drawn to high fat foods, which increases their risk of obesity.

If you aren’t a picky eater, you might be a nontaster.  Nontasters are more likely to try more foods because their taste buds are less discriminating.  Supertasters notice the subtle differences in food taste and textures, which makes them good chefs and food critics.  Nontasters experience food as more bland.

THE TEST

If you aren’t sure if you are a supertaster, you can try a simple test to find out.  Place some dark blue food coloring on the tip of your tongue.  On a piece of paper, punch a standard three ring binder sized hole.  Place the paper on your tongue.  Count the number of little dots that you see inside the hole.  On average, supertasters have 35, average tasters have between 15 and 35, and non-tasters have less than 15.  Or, if you know a biology teacher, ask for a PTC paper.  Supertasters have a gene that allows them to taste the bitterness of a chemical called PROP (propylthiouracil).  If you place the PTC paper on your tongue and you taste bitterness, you know you are a supertaster. 

SUPERTASTERS & MINDFUL EATING

So if you are trying to eat more mindfully, consider how your taste buds may be impacting the way you eat.  Do you always reach for the salt shaker?  Do you find yourself overeating because the taste is so amazing?  Or, do you struggle with getting veggies into your diet because you don't like them (which may be due to the bitterness)?  Learning to eat slowly and with full awareness can help everyone (no matter what kind of taste buds you have) eat more mindfully.  When you are aware of your eating habits and style, you are more in charge of what and how much you eat.  Supertasters, for example, are likely to get into the mindless habit of salting their food before they taste it.  If you are aware of this, you can stop this automatic habit by taking a small bite and consciously evaluating it before adding salt.  To learn more about mindful eating click here.  www.eatingmindfully.com

To read more about supertasters:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/06/16/127880219/for-supertasters-a-desire-for-salt-is-in-their-genes

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/06/16/salt.taste/index.html

 By:  Dr. Susan Albers, psychologist and author of the new book, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully.

www.eatingmindfully.com

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a psychologist who specializes in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns and mindfulness. 

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