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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 10:53 GMT
Tongue test identifies 'super-tasters'
Wine glasses
Some people have more sensitive taste-buds than others
A simple tongue test can tell people if they are a "super-taster" or not.

Around 35% of women are super-tasters, compared with just 15% of men, US research has shown.

The study found some people are born with more taste buds than others, meaning they are better able to distinguish between tastes.

While those with too few taste buds may not be able to tell the difference between cheap plonk and fine wines, those with more taste buds are more likely to become professional chefs or wine tasters.

Now there is a taste bud test people can do at home, based on the Yale University research.

Pink dots

To test your taste buds, you need some blue food colouring, a piece of paper with a 7mm-wide hole punched through it, and a magnifying glass.

Swab some of the food colouring onto the tip of your tongue. The tongue will take up the dye, but the papillae, tiny structures that house the taste buds, will stay pink.

Super-tasters perceive all tastes as more intense than do tasters and non-tasters
Professor Linda Bartoshuk, Yale University
Put the piece of paper on the front part of the tongue and, using the magnifying glass, count how many pink dots are inside the hole.

Fewer than 15 papillae mean you are an insensitive "non-taster", between 15 and 35 indicates an average "taster" and over 35 papillae then you are a "super-taster".

The US research, led by Professor Linda Bartoshuk, suggested around a quarter of the population are non-tasters, 50% tasters, and the rest super-tasters.

Laboratory tests used a solution of 6-propylthiouracil, a thyroid medication known as PROP.

Some people noticed nothing, others found the taste bitter, and others found it extremely unpleasant.

But PROP is a prescription-only drug, so the researchers suggest using food colouring for an at-home test.


Professor Bartoshuk said: "Super-tasters perceive all tastes as more intense than do tasters and non-tasters."

Catherine Lowe, managing editor of Wine magazine which published details of the research, told BBC News Online: "People are recognised as being able to taste differently.

"Some people are very, very good and others are just average, so we wanted to look at the science behind it."

But she said it was still possible for would-be wine tasters to educate their palate.

"You can learn. But for some people, it is easier than for others."

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