NOV 08, 2021 1:00 PM PST

People Taste Things Differently, Depending on their Diet

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Taste is a fundamental factor when it comes to choosing what foods we eat, and which we avoid. We all remember as kids, we avoided certain foods, such as green vegetables (which, according to research, has an underlying biological reason why we avoid them—taste). Taste may also be why many tend to prefer processed, sugary foods—they taste good, so why wouldn’t we want to eat them?

There is also a growing body of research suggesting that diets can change taste “sensitivities,” or the ways people experience different kinds of tastes, such as sweet, sour, or bitterness. This is likely due to the different nutrient makeups of the foods eaten in different diets (e.g., vegan and vegetarian diets have higher levels of fiber than diets that include more animal products, so they detect bitterness better). Research has shown, for example, that obese individuals who consume excess amounts of dietary fat have a decreased sensitivity to the taste of fat. 

In a new study published in Foods, researchers examined how different types of diets (specifically, vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore diets) shaped taste sensitivities and taste detection thresholds, or the minimum amount of a particular taste someone needs to perceive that taste). It is the first systematic evaluation of taste thresholds in people following these distinct diets.

The study included 80 female participants, ages 18-45, who followed either a vegan (22), vegetarian (23), or omnivore diet (35). Researchers used forced-choice tests to assess the taste thresholds for six different tastes: sweet, sour, salty, umami (also known as savoriness), bitter, and metallic. 

Key findings for each diet group are as follows:

  • Omnivores had fairly consistent, distinct taste thresholds between the six different tastes.
  • Vegetarians and vegans, however, had heightened sensitivity to metallic taste and reduced sensitivity to sweetness.

People following vegetarian diets also showed a slightly lower detection threshold for bitterness compared to the other two. Researchers suggest this may be caused by higher consumption of fruits and vegetables. 

Sources: Foods; Obesity 

About the Author
  • Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
You May Also Like
NOV 17, 2021
Health & Medicine
Apes and humans communicate similarly when completing tasks
NOV 17, 2021
Apes and humans communicate similarly when completing tasks
Whether apes can communicate with each other has been a debate for decades. They cannot speak because they do not have t ...
DEC 20, 2021
Plants & Animals
At Least 15 Animal Species in the US Have Contracted COVID-19 So Far
DEC 20, 2021
At Least 15 Animal Species in the US Have Contracted COVID-19 So Far
We’re almost 2 years into the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve learned a lot about how the virus works. This und ...
DEC 26, 2021
Plants & Animals
Compound in African Buttercup Plant Alleviates Malaria Symptoms
DEC 26, 2021
Compound in African Buttercup Plant Alleviates Malaria Symptoms
Malaria is a febrile disease spread by parasite-infected mosquitos, which causes flu-like symptoms that can often be dea ...
JAN 03, 2022
Earth & The Environment
The Legacy and Loss of Dr. Richard Leakey
JAN 03, 2022
The Legacy and Loss of Dr. Richard Leakey
Dr. Richard Leakey, one of the fathers of Paleoanthropology has passed away in Kenya.
JAN 07, 2022
Plants & Animals
Increasing Heat Resistance In Plants With Steroid Hormones
JAN 07, 2022
Increasing Heat Resistance In Plants With Steroid Hormones
Breaking heat records have become an increasingly common, and alarming, trend over the past couple decades. Temperatures ...
JAN 21, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Scientists Aim to Sequence the Genomes of All Eukaryotes on Earth
JAN 21, 2022
Scientists Aim to Sequence the Genomes of All Eukaryotes on Earth
Life on earth is rich with diversity, and while we know a lot about some organisms, there is still so much more to learn ...
Loading Comments...