MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: how many people are tasters as opposed to non-tasters

Date: Wed Apr 23 12:45:15 2003
Posted By: Gil Stoewsand, Faculty, Food Science & Technology, Cornell University
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 1051050816.Gb

Besides taste buds on the tongue, taste receptors are distributed on 
the epiglottis, the pharynx, the soft palate, the anterior faucial pillars, 
and a few on the cheeks and the undersurface of the tongue. Taste 
buds dilminish with age, first those on the middorsal region and then 
those on the tip of the tongue. Four tastes are recognized by people: 
salt, acid or sour, sweet, and bitter. There are considerable individual 
differences in taste sensitiveness. Certain people are "aguesia" or 
taste blind. In some cases, taste blindness is limited to a few 
substances. There may have been more recent tests on taste 
blindness, but in  tests some years ago with phenylthiocarbamide, a 
very bitter tasting compound, it was tasteless for about 5% of the 
population. This type of taste blindness is a hereditary trait, 
transmitted by a simple mendelian recessive factor. At a meeting of 
scientists, the taste of an unknown substance (maltose) was tested. 
The answers obtained were sweet, bitter, acid, salt, insipid, 
complex-that is to say all of the possible answers. Thus, diversity in 
taste was remarkably demonstrated by this experiment. The use of 
pepper on foods may only indicate that certain people like a peppery 
flavor for an otherwise bland food. During the last 10 years Mexican 
foods, with hot-spicy flavors, have sold increasingly well. This is true 
even with people that had not tasted Mexican foods until their teens or 
early adult periods. This has nothing to do with taste blindness but 
has to do with an increased acceptance and then a desire for the 
spicy and hot pepper flavors of Mexican foods.

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