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Individual differences in taste perception and bitterness masking

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The unpleasant bitter taste found in many nutritious vegetables may deter people from consuming a healthy diet. We investigated individual differences in taste perception and whether these differences influence the

The unpleasant bitter taste found in many nutritious vegetables may deter people from consuming a healthy diet. We investigated individual differences in taste perception and whether these differences influence the effectiveness of bitterness masking. To test whether phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) `supertasters' also taste salt and sugar with greater intensity, as suggested by Bartoshuk and colleagues (2004), we infused strips of paper with salt water or sugar water. The bitterness rating of the PTC strip had a significant positive linear relationship with ratings of both the intensity of sweet and salt, but the effect sizes were very low, suggesting that the PTC strip does not give a complete picture of tasting ability. Next we investigated whether various seasonings could mask the bitter taste of vegetables and whether this varied with tasting ability. We found that sugar decreased bitterness and lemon decreased liking for vegetables of varying degrees of bitterness. The results did not differ by ability to taste any of the flavors. Therefore, even though there are remarkable individual differences in taste perception, sugar can be used to improve the initial palatability of vegetables and increase their acceptance and consumption.

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  • 2012