The bitterness of cruciferous vegetables is experienced more intensely by supertasters which may put roughly 25% of the population at increased risk for certain cancers, especially colon cancer.
Researchers found that the number of pre-cancerous polyps present in the colon has a direct correlation to the subject’s ability to taste bitterness.
Though a heightened sense of taste and a dearth of vegetables in the diet of supertasters may represent an increased cancer risk, supertasters also shy away from the intense flavors of fats and sugars and as a result are typically thinner than their non-tasting counterparts and less likely to be afflicted with cardiovascular disease.
Sickness however may modify our sense of taste and thereby change the foods we seek out. In a related study, scientists at Yale found that a history of upper respiratory infection was related to a lack of bitterness perception, whereby chronic ear-infection may change an individual who may have been born as a supertaster, with more taste buds than an average person, into an effective non-taster. Says researcher Dr. Linda Bartoshuk, “the ear infection damages your taste nerve to the point at which you can’t taste bitter tastes, so it doesn’t matter if you are a supertaster or not.”
A quarter of the U.S. population can be classified as supertasters, a quarter non-tasters and the remaining half, medium-tasters. Supertasting is more common in women than in men and is more prevalent in the Asian community than the Caucasian community.