Am I a Supertaster?

By Kristy Vest

I feel like I am walking into one of the most important tests of my academic career but there’s no studying for this one.  The PROP test is a quick and simple tool to tell you if you are a “supertaster”, “taster” or “non-taster”. Contrary to the term, non-tasters do still taste.  Supertasters are said to sense flavours stronger and have more taste buds than others. Interesting research is being done about supertasters, their food choices and preferences.

“PROP” is short for n-6-propylthiouracil. Usually the PROP solution is prepared and poured into 30mL cups. Not much is required to perform the test. The person is taken into a sensory booth where they are told to put the solution into their mouth, swirl it around and then spit it out into a cup. A chart is given where you draw a line for how strong the solution was. From “barely detectable” to “strongest imaginable”, you simply decide what degree of sensation you experienced. There is no right or wrong. The lower region is classified as “non-taster”, the middle range as “taster” and the upper range as “supertaster”.

There is little one can do to prepare for the PROP test. Despite this fact, I am behaving like an athlete on game day. Perhaps more superstitious than analytical (which the latter is in my nature) I’m not taking any chances. I’m well rested and drinking plenty of fluids. Superstitious or not, I want my palate to be clear for the PROP solution.

I’m anticipating a sensation that will horrify, like a foodie masochist. My individual sensory booth will conceal my reaction but what if I sense nothing at all? At times I feel that my olfactory bulb has forsaken me; maybe my taste buds will as well. I remind myself that I’m above average on sensory tests so far. Why did they have to categorize the lower thresholds with the tragic term of “non-taster”? Why do I care so much?

I’m prepared for every possible outcome of the PROP test. I’ve been perfectly content with my tasting of foods thus far. A nice glass of cabernet sauvignon will surely prove no less pleasing post-PROP test. Sharp cheddar will be just as sharp. Despite this, I know in the back of my mind that I really want it. I want my Supertaster Badge!  (There is a badge right?)

Stay tuned for my PROP test results. Have you experienced the PROP test? Do you think the PROP test is an accurate measure of taster-status? Please share your thoughts and experiences below!

Photo Credit:  http://www.weebirdy.com/2013/09/sponsored-post-a-flavour-packed-afternoon-tea.html/lipton_tea-tasting-4-2

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4 Comments

  1. Very interesting, never had to do a PROP test but I can imagine the anxiety! Thanks for sharing, Kristy.

  2. Emily W. Reply to Emily

    You have a knack for writing! Love this post! I am a sensory nerd too, but I have never taken a PROP test. I am curious as to whether or not I would be classified as a super-taster. Did they give you multiple samples, some of which were blanks or something to lessen the bias of people who already know the premise of the test?

  3. Kristy Vest Reply to Kristy

    Thanks Thomas! It was a great experience. I recommend it if you get a chance!

  4. Kristy Vest Reply to Kristy

    Thanks Emily! I appreciate the compliments!

    As for the experimental design, there was no blinding for the treatments. This was discussed as to how it may affect the results of taster status as well as other design factors that could have influenced the results. Blinding with the use of other samples would be a great idea. We also considered doing the test earlier in the semester before one is aware of the general premise of the test. The test itself is a fascinating topic of research and I’ve really been enjoying investigating the different opinions on its validity. If you have the opportunity to complete the PROP Test, you should do it! It is a neat experience.

    Thanks again for your thoughts!

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