About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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March 31, 2003

Sensoceuticals and Super Tasters

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Substantial variation in taste sensitivity exists in humans. Understanding taste's relationship to diet and other behaviors like smoking will have important implications for human health.

Taste plays a crucial role in food choice, allowing people to identify beneficial foods those with high caloric value (typically sweet) from foods likely to be toxic (usually bitter).  Breakthroughs in taste research began in 1931 when Science published the finding that many individuals are unable to taste the compound, phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), a relatively bitter compound. It turns out that one-fourth Americans cannot taste PTC.

Companies like IFF (International Flavor and Fragrances) have been focused on developing "better" tasting food for years while start-ups like Senomyx are working on products that block bitter tastes in coffee, make low-sodium snacks taste salty, and block unpleasant odors. 

Although these don't come close to the new experiences that are on the horizon, but continued research by sensory scientists should lead to the development of new taste specific sensoceuticals in the coming years.  At the very least this might mean better tasting MREs.

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