MNN Galleries

7 superhuman senses

By: Sidney Stevens on Nov. 13, 2019, 4:38 p.m.
woman holds many flavors of ice cream cones

Photo: Studio Lucky/Shutterstock

6 of 9

Super tasters

About 25 percent of people have significantly more taste buds on their tongues, allowing them to savor flavors up to three times more intensely. Not surprisingly, there's an upside and downside to this taste hypersensitivity: Super tasters are notoriously picky eaters. They have less heart disease and are thinner because they don’t usually like the taste of fatty and sugary foods, but they may also be more prone to certain cancers because they tend to shun green vegetables, particularly the bitter ones like Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

A good example is that while roasted Brussels sprouts may taste like heaven to you, a super taster won't like them because she's more likely to taste the sulfur. Not surprisingly, that means super tasters are unlikely to eat all the vegetables we're all supposed to eat for a healthy diet. That was an element that Jennifer Smith, a registered nurse who is a postdoc in cardiovascular science at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine, wanted to explore. In a study presented at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Heart Association, she found that people with this gene were 2.6 times more likely to eat fewer vegetables.

"We wanted to know if genetics affected the ability of people who need to eat heart-healthy foods from eating them," Smith told CNN. "While we didn't see results in gene type for sodium, sugar or saturated fat, we did see a difference in vegetables," Smith said, adding that people with the gene tasted "a 'ruin-your-day' level of bitterness."

In the video below, the SciShow explains more details about the gene and how to test for it.