Some people are simply born with far more taste buds than others (as many as 14 times more in some cases). Those with a greater density of taste-papillae on their tongues, known as supertasters, will likely taste certain bitter compounds much more intensely. Others, meanwhile, known as non-tasters, taste absolutely nothing when given a filter paper that has been soaked with one of these chemicals. The remaining 1/3 to 1/2 of the population, known as medium tasters, taste something, but don’t find the filter paper to be especially unpleasant. Supertasters tend to find Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables unpleasantly bitter, and they will be more likely to start drinking coffee and beer later in life than their friends, due to their bitter taste.3
I still remember, as a child, my father forcing us kids to finish our vegetables before we’d get any dessert. Little did we know then that he is a non-taster, whereas my mother, sister, brother, and I, not to mention my nieces are all supertasters (taster status runs in families).4 What he took to be fussy eating on the part of his family was really a sign that we all really do live in different taste worlds. An individual’s taster status also affects the perception of the other basic tastes (sweet, salty, sour, and umami), though to a lesser extent. Intriguingly, supertasters are more sensitive to the texture of foods too.5 In fact, they may be a little less likely to be overweight as they need less fat in their ice-creams, fillings, and salad dressings etc. in order to get the same taste sensation as a medium or non-taster.