Did you know that about 25% of us are Supertasters?1 And, if you’re one, that means you’re super-sensitive to certain tastes, including broccoli, grapefruit, dark chocolate and Brussels sprouts. Yep, there might be a genuine reason why your child hates sprouts…
So how do you find out if your child is a Supertaster? There is a definitive test that involves licking paper scientists have infused with a special chemical that Supertasters find incredibly bitter. But there is also a much less yucky, much more fun test you can do at home in under 10 minutes. Just follow the instructions below to give it a go…
What makes you a Supertaster? Here’s the science bit!
It’s all about your tongue. Or, more specifically, about the tastebuds on your tongue.
Not everyone has the same number of tastebuds, scientists have discovered.1
And for the people who have more tastebuds than average – these are the Supertasters – foods can have much stronger flavours that they do for the rest of us. This means that Supertasters often have very strong likes and disklikes for certain foods. They particularly seem to find that broccoli, spinach, cabbage, grapefruit and dark chocolate all taste very bitter.
There is also a group of people (about 25% of us) who have fewer tastebuds than average. They’re called Non-tasters and they tend to find the foods that Supertasters are so sensitive to a bit weak or bland.
Your tastebuds are on your tongue – in big, pink bumps called fungiform papillae. Each pink bump houses between 6 and 15 tastebuds, and each tastebud is made up about 150 receptors cells that each receptor senses a single flavour (sweet, salty, bitter, sour or umami).
The more fungiform papillae you have on your tongue, the more tastebuds you’ll have – and the more likely you are to be a Supertaster.
Here’s how to do the Supertaster test:
You Will Need
- Blue food dye
- Small dish or bowl
- Cotton bud
- Small piece of card
- Hole punch or scissors
Take your food dye and squirt a little into your dish. Then take your cotton bud, and dip it in to the dye, so it’s coated.
Ask your child to stick their tongue out and, using the dye-laden cotton bud, cover about a third of your child’s tongue with the food dye. Warning: have your tissues handy, as there may be dribbling – not a day for wearing best clothes. The food dye will stain the rest of their tongue too (but it soon comes off).
Your child’s tongue should look now something like these pics.
Make a hole in your card with a hole punch or a pair of scissors (if you use scissors, as we have here, take care not to make the hole any bigger than the size of hole a hole punch would make). Press the card with the hole in it over your child’s tongue.
Look carefully and see how many big bumps – just the big ones (which should look pink or a lighter blue), not the smaller (darker blue) ones – you can count on the part of their tongue that is poking through the hole. If you’re finding it hard to see clearly, you could use a torch and a magnifying glass or your child could take a ‘tongue selfie’ and then zoom in on the bumps on your phone.
How many bumps did you count? Here’s what your total means:
You can identify what kind of tester your child is by the number of bumps you’ve counted:
- Fewer than 15 bumps: your child is a Non-taster
- 15 to 30 bumps: your child is an average taster
- 30 bumps or more: your child is a Supertaster
1. PTC/PROP Tasting: Anatomy, Psychophysics and Sex Effects. Bartoshuk. LM et al. Physiology & Behaviour 1994 Dec; 56(6): 1165-71. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(94)90361-1