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Chem Senses. 2008 Jul;33(6):493-501. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjn016. Epub 2008 May 3.

Measures of individual differences in taste and creaminess perception.

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Department of Food Science and Technology, Oregon State University, 100 Wiegand Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.


Previous reports that the sensitivity to the bitter tasting substance 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) is related to the sensitivity to other tastes, to chemical irritants, and to fats and oils have led to adoption of PROP as a measure of general oral sensitivity and as a predictor of dietary habits that could impact health. The results, however, have not been consistent. It was recently discovered that the ability to perceive "thermal taste" (i.e., sweetness from thermal stimulation alone) was associated with higher responsiveness to 4 prototypical taste stimuli but not to PROP. This finding implied that individual differences in taste perception are determined in large part by factors other than those related to genetic expression of the PROP receptor. The present study followed up this observation by comparing individual differences in perception of 4 prototypical taste stimuli (sucrose, NaCl, citric acid, and quinine) and PROP under conditions that also enabled assessment of the reliability of individual intensity ratings of taste. Creaminess ratings of 3 milk products that had different fat contents were also collected to investigate further the relationship between taste and oral somatosensory perception. The results showed that intensity ratings across 2 trials were significantly correlated for all 5 taste stimuli and that averaging across replicates led to significant correlations among the 4 prototypical stimuli. In contrast, the bitterness of PROP was correlated only with the bitterness of quinine. None of the taste stimuli, including PROP, was significantly correlated with ratings of creaminess. These results imply 1) that with the exception of PROP, as few as 2 intensity ratings of common taste stimuli can reveal individual differences in overall taste perception and 2) that any relationship between taste and oral sensation is too weak to be detected under the same conditions. Accordingly, the results support other evidence that the genetic factors which determine the ability to perceive PROP do not play a major role in overall taste and oral somatosensory perception.

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