Why Some Want to Spit Out Bitter Tasting Foods

Some people are so sensitive to bitter-tasting foods that their impulse is to spit them out. Yale researcher Dr. Bartoshuk has devised a system to categorize individual perception of taste. Dr. Bartoshuk assesses people’s genetic ability to taste by a simple procedure utilizing the substance called PROP (6-n – prophylthiourea). PROP is added to a small piece of paper. Participating individuals are asked to taste this paper thereby classifying individuals in appropriate categories according to their responses. Non-tasters identify the paper as tasteless, medium-tasters identify the paper as moderately bitter, and super-tasters identify the paper as intensely bitter. These individuals, the so-called super-tasters, have the most fungi-form papillae or mushroom-shaped structures found to contain that which is commonly referred to as our taste buds.

According to Dr. Bartoshuk, super-tasters live in a “neon taste world” roughly three times as intense as the “pastel world” of non-tasters. The following observations have been made concerning bitter foods such as coffee, chocolate and dark green vegetables: supertasters tend to avoid some healthy foods like green vegetables, which can aid in the reduction of certain diseases. Paradoxically, whereas super-tasters may drink coffee, they are not as enthused with its taste as non-tasters or medium-tasters. It has been estimated that approximately one-quarter of the population is made up of super-tasters. Extreme supertasters represent about 10 to 15 percent of the population.