We are what we eat, but why? Relationships between oral sensation, genetics, pathology, and diet

Derek J. Snyder, Valerie B. Duffy, Susan E. Marino, Linda M. Bartoshuk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

6 Scopus citations


We live in different taste worlds thanks to genetic and pathological influences. Individuals are born with varying numbers of fungiform papillae (i.e., structures that house taste buds), and those with the most fungiform papillae (i.e., supertasters) experience the most intense taste sensations. For example, supertasters experience roughly three times the sweetness experienced by those with the fewest fungiform papillae (i.e., nontasters). Since fungiform papillae receive touch and pain as well as taste innervation, supertasters also perceive the most intense sensations from oral tactile stimuli (e.g., fats) and oral irritants (e.g., chili peppers). Taste sensation is vulnerable to damage from multiple sources, including dental work, ear infection, head injury, and the use of certain drugs (e.g., antibiotics). Because taste normally inhibits non-taste oral sensations centrally, taste damage can intensify these sensations via disinhibition. These alterations affect food/beverage palatability and thus have commercial and health implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSweetness and Sweeteners
Subtitle of host publicationBiology, Chemistry and Psychophysics
PublisherAmerican Chemical Society
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)9780841274327
StatePublished - Mar 4 2008

Publication series

NameACS Symposium Series
ISSN (Print)0097-6156
ISSN (Electronic)1947-5918


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