Factors related to fungiform papillae density: The beaver dam offspring study

Mary E. Fischer, Karen J. Cruickshanks, Carla R. Schubert, Alex Pinto, Ronald Klein, Nathan Pankratz, James S. Pankow, Guan Hua Huang

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98 Scopus citations


The distribution of fungiform papillae density and associated factors were examined in the Beaver Dam Offspring Study. Data were from 2371 participants (mean age = 48.8 years, range = 21-84 years) with 1108 males and 1263 females. Fungiform papillae were highlighted with blue food coloring and the number of fungiform papillae within a standard 6-mm circle was counted. Whole mouth suprathreshold taste intensity was measured. The mean fungiform papillae density was 103.5 papillae/cm2 (range = 0-212.2 papillae/cm2). For each 5-year increase in age, the mean fungiform papillae density was 2.8 papillae/cm2 lower and the mean density for males was 10.2 papillae/cm2 lower than for females. Smokers had significantly lower mean densities (former smokers: -5.1 papillae/cm2; current smokers: -9.3 papillae/cm2) than nonsmokers, and heavy alcohol drinkers had a mean density that was 4.7 papillae/cm2 lower than nonheavy drinkers. Solvent exposure was related to a significantly higher density (+6.8 papillae/cm2). The heritability estimate for fungiform papillae density was 40.2%. Propylthiouracil taster status, TAS2R38 haplotype, and perceived taste intensity were not related to density. In summary, wide variability in fungiform papillae density was observed and a number of related factors were found including the modifiable factors of smoking and alcohol consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-677
Number of pages9
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants [R01AG021917] from the National Institute on Aging; National Eye Institute; and National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and by an unrestricted grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB).


  • Fungiform papillae
  • Heritability
  • Taste


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