If you crave Planter's peanuts, hanker for bacon and relish potato chips, you may be a “supertaster.” A Penn State study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior on June 16 found that some people experience the taste of salt more intensely than others. These so-called supertasters also detect bitterness and sweetness more acutely. According to the study, this heightened salt sense can lead to increased scarfing of salty snack foods. Learn more about your proclivities after the jump.
Excess salt is a dietary no-no, and public experts lately have been calling on food manufacturers and restaurants to cut back on added salt. In April, the Institute of Medicine released a report urging the federal government to limit salt levels in foods. Currently, your average non-supertaster American consumes two to three times the amount of salt recommended for good health.
The Penn State study tracked the eating habits of 87 participants aged 20 to 40 who sampled salty foods such as chips, pretzels and broth on multiple occasions over two weeks. The participants were broken up into three groups based on their ability to detect the bitter-tasting chemical propylthiouracil. Some found it extremely bitter while others barely tasted it. (The ability to detect bitterness is genetic.) They were then classified as supertasters, medium tasters and nontasters.
Supertasters might also be attracted to high-salt foods to cover the bitterness present in certain foods. “A supertaster finds low-salt cheese unpleasant, because the bitterness is too pronounced,” study researcher John Hayes, an assistant professor of food science at Penn, told the Christian Science Monitor. He advises people–supertasters or not–to check food labels and choose products that contain less than 480 mg of sodium per serving.
Indulging your super-sweet tooth instead is not a solution.