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Our taste buds play a big role in how we taste foods. Everyone has four types of taste bud - sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The more taste buds you have, the more intensely you perceive tastes, especially bitter ones. People who are particularly sensitive to strong flavors are called supertasters and can have up to twice as many taste buds as the rest of us. Around 25% of people are said to be non-tasters, 25% supertasters and 50% medium tasters. The supertaster gene could be left over from our ancestors where it could have acted to stop us from eating unsafe foods that often taste bitter or not very nice.

Taste isn't only down to our taste buds - it also depends on how our brain reads the signals from our tongues. The ability of a person to smell and taste depends on around 1000 genes, although half of these appear to be inactive. A few years ago, scientists discovered that around 50 of these genes are active in some people while not in others and they believe that it is these genes that make some of us like some foods while the same foods make others want to vomit! Every person is thought to have different genes switched on and off, leading to the presence of different receptors for different flavors in every person.

Try using a cotton bud to wipe blue food coloring onto the tip of your tongue. If you have loads and loads of taste buds, you could be a supertaster. Try comparing with friends who like different foods....

Taste facts:

  • We have almost 10,000 taste buds inside our mouths; even on the roofs of our mouths.
  • Insects have the most highly developed sense of taste. They have taste organs on their feet, antennae, and mouthparts.
  • Fish can taste with their fins and tail as well as their mouth.
  • In general, girls have more taste buds than boys.
  • Taste buds are most sensitive right after a night's sleep.
  • Cats have no sweet taste receptors.

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