Inability to Taste a Bitter Compound Linked to Obesity

Apr 06, 2010

( -- Whether or not you can taste a bitter compound called 6-n-propylthiouracil (or PROP) may help Professor Beverly Tepper identify your risk for becoming obese and/or developing cardiovascular disease.

Tepper is a professor in the Food Science Department at Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and she’s an American Heart Association-funded researcher. She recently received a Grant-in-Aid, which supports the most innovative, meritorious research projects of independent investigators, for a study entitled “Bitter Taste Phenotype, Diet and in Women.”

The long-term goal of this work is to better understand how a common , the ability to taste PROP, might be linked via excess energy intake to obesity and the risk of cardiovascular disease in women,” said Tepper, a Boston native who earned her master’s and Ph.D. degrees at Tufts University. She has worked at Rutgers since 1989.

Tepper’s research is examining whether the ability to taste PROP plays a role in how much and what kinds of foods you eat. This information may ultimately help physicians use PROP as a screening tool to identify individuals at risk for excessive weight gain due to dietary causes. This is significant, as obesity is a factor.

For this three-year study, Tepper’s first step is to determine a subject’s ability to taste PROP by giving them a piece of paper embedded with the compound. Participants are divided into three groups:

• If you’re a super-taster, you’re sensitive to PROP and your expression will give it away. You won’t be able to hide how hideous the PROP tastes to you.
• On the other hand, if you’re a non-taster, the PROP will simply taste like a piece of paper. You may wonder what the super-tasters are all worked up about.
• There’s also a middle category, identified as medium tasters.

About 25 percent of Caucasians are non-tasters; 50 percent are medium tasters; and 25 percent are super-tasters.

“We know from our previous studies that non-tasters tend to be heavier,” Tepper said. “But laboratories haven’t been able to demonstrate a difference in calorie or fat intake. Part of the issue is that it’s been self-reported, which tends to be biased. So we designed this study to bring people into the lab, where we can effectively measure what they’re eating.”

In Tepper’s sensory evaluation lab at Rutgers, participants are exposed to a buffet-style eating situation. Tepper tracks how many calories the participants consume, as well as the types of food they choose. She also looks at whether non-tasters consume more added fats (i.e., salad dressings, mayonnaise) than medium- and super-tasters.

“I submitted this work to the American Heart Association because I want to understand the factors that influence body weight and obesity in women, since these are major for heart disease,” Tepper said. “If we had a relatively simple method to identify people who are at risk for obesity, that would be a major advance.”

Explore further: Sensors may keep hospitalized patients from falling

Provided by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Taste gene may play role in smoking

Feb 22, 2006

Recent research on the genetics of smoking has focused on genes that are thought to be related to nicotine metabolism, personality traits, and regulation of emotions. According to a genetic study just published ...

At last a machine with good taste -- for espresso

Feb 11, 2008

Can a machine taste coffee? The question has plagued scientists studying the caffeinated beverage for decades. Fortunately, researchers in Switzerland can now answer with a resounding “yes.” The study on their coffee-tasting ...

Australian researchers say fat is 'sixth taste'

Mar 08, 2010

It's a theory set to confirm why humans are so fond of fatty foods such as chips and chocolate cake: in addition to the five tastes already identified lurks another detectable by the palate -- fat.

Recommended for you

Sensors may keep hospitalized patients from falling

4 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—To keep hospitalized patients safer, University of Arizona researchers are working on new technology that involves a small, wearable sensor that measures a patient's activity, heart rate, ...

Rising role seen for health education specialists

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—A health education specialist can help family practices implement quality improvement projects with limited additional financial resources, according to an article published in the March/April ...

FDA proposes first regulations for e-cigarettes (Update)

6 hours ago

The U.S. government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

User comments : 0

More news stories

New breast cancer imaging method promising

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Breast cancer replicates brain development process

New research led by a scientist at the University of York reveals that a process that forms a key element in the development of the nervous system may also play a pivotal role in the spread of breast cancer.

Research proves nanobubbles are superstable

The intense research interest in surface nanobubbles arises from their potential applications in microfluidics and the scientific challenge for controlling their fundamental physical properties. One of the ...

Using antineutrinos to monitor nuclear reactors

When monitoring nuclear reactors, the International Atomic Energy Agency has to rely on input given by the operators. In the future, antineutrino detectors may provide an additional option for monitoring. ...