Guest Author - Catherine Ebey
How do you know if you are a supertaster or an average taster? You can do two things to determine your taster status. You can purchase PTC strips and see if you can taste the bitter chemical contained on the strip or you can also see how many taste buds you have using blue dye to dye your tongue. These fun and easy experiments will determine if you are an average taster or a super taster.
You can buy PTC taster strips online to find out if you have the bitter taste gene TAS2R38. PTC strips test for taste sensitivity to bitterness. PTC strips specifically test your taste sensitivity to a chemical known as phenylthiocarbamide, a chemical similar to the bitter alkaloids produced by certain plants like cabbage and Brussels sprouts. If you can taste the bitter PTC, you are probably a supertaster.
Perform another quick science experiment using blue dye to see how many taste buds you have on your tongue to confirm your taster status. You will need blue food coloring, cotton balls, some paper reinforcement rings, a flash light, a magnifying glass and a lab partner to do this experiment. Note that the magnifying glass is optional makes visualizing your taste buds easier. You can grab paper reinforcement rings at your local office supplies store.
First measure the diameter of the hole in your paper reinforcement ring. Use this measurement to calculate the area of the ring. Note down your area; you will need this measurement to calculate your taste bud density.
Now put some blue food coloring on your cotton ball and swab the cotton ball over the tip of your tongue. Try to cover at least an inch of your tongue in blue dye. Then put your paper reinforcement ring over a portion of your dyed tongue. Have a partner shine the flashlight over your tongue and count the number of taste buds within the paper reinforcement ring. Your taste buds will look like little, pinkish dots because they do not absorb as much of the dye as the rest of your tongue. Note this number on a piece of paper.
Now you can calculate the density of your taste buds! Take the number of taste buds that you found and divide it by the area of your paper reinforcement ring. According to a similar experiment performed at the University of South Dakota, super tasters have an average taste bud density of greater than 1 millimeter squared. Non-tasters have an average taste bud density of 0.3-1 millimeters squared. What is your taster status?