Two people can look at the same piece of food and have completely opposite reactions. If you have ever turned your nose up at something your spouse has greedily dug into, you have probably wondered why it is that no two people have the same set of tastes. It turns out that there are a number of factors that affect our food choices. Here are just a few:
How Many Taste Buds Do You Have?
We all know that we taste foods through our taste buds, but it turns out that not all tongues are the same. While most of us have about 2,000 of these tasters working for us, there is a group of people (known as supertasters) who have over 10,000. This allows them to detect more flavors than the rest of us. While supertasters may have an advantage when it comes to deconstructing the flavor of a wine, they are also more susceptible to the bitter tastes that come from some vegetables.
Are You Prone to Ear Infections?
If your nose is clogged your sense of taste is affected, but ear infections can also have an impact. Shahzada Ahmed, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital explains that “ear infections can damage the taste nerve, which runs up from the tongue right through the middle ear and into the brain. This damage can intensify the sensation of the texture of fatty foods, and as a result these people may put on weight.” Problems such as kidney failure and liver disease can also affect the taste of food as they cause poisons to back up and affect the tongue.
What Is the Texture?
Have you ever wondered why a glass of wine goes so well with a big steak? Researchers at Rutgers may have an answer. Fatty foods such as steak leave our mouths feeling oily and a little gross. When we wash them down with astringent liquids (like wine or tea), the oily feeling is cleared away. Our mouths are left feeling clean and we are free to take another bite. Oral biologist Paul Breslin of Rutgers says that “This natural tendency for seeking balance in our mouths might have benefits for maintaining a diversity of foods in our diet.”
How Is Your Weight?
A diversity of food in our diet can help us keep from being overweight. However, if you are carrying some extra pounds, this can have an effect on how you experience food. German researchers have found that obese children have less sensitivity in their taste buds than children of a normal weight. This makes it difficult for obese children to tell the difference between one taste and another. What is not yet determined is whether diluted taste buds are a side effect of being overweight, or if some people tend to put on weight because their taste buds are not as sensitive.
What Did Your Mother Like?
People’s food preferences can start as early as the womb. There are certain tastes (garlic and vanilla, for example) that can be found in amniotic fluid if the mother eats them. Being exposed to these flavors at such a tender age may increase a person’s chances of liking them later on.
Why Are Fattening Foods So Tasty?
If you have ever felt like you just cannot stop eating a bag of chips, there may be more behind it than just the taste. Scientists have found that when rats consume fatty foods, their stomachs release a chemical that gives them a positive feeling. This may be because of evolution. Because fat is such a good energy source, animals that stocked up on it were more likely to survive. Sugars and proteins do not cause a similar reaction.
What Pills Do You Take?
Certain medications have an effect on how we taste foods. For example, antidepressants can stop taste messages from reaching your brain. If you have a heart condition, the beta-blockers you take can have an effect on the receptor nerves of your tongue. Finally, chemotherapy has a tendency to target cells in your tongue because they are replaced so quickly, which can affect the taste of your food.
Everyone’s taste in food is impacted by a number of factors, many of which we haven’t begun to understand.