Grapefruit, broccoli, kale and coffee have long been labelled as needing an ‘acquired taste’ to enjoy. If you haven’t gained an appreciation for these foods, then you may want to thank your tastebuds, as a study has found that those who don’t enjoy bitter foods may also be less likely to catch coronavirus.
Supertasters less vulnerable to COVID-19
A recent study published in the JAMA Network Open found that supertasters - people who are sensitive to bitterness - may be less likely to catch COVID-19 and less likely to be hospitalised from a severe COVID infection.
What’s more is that the study found that when infected with coronavirus, supertasters only experienced symptoms for roughly five days on average compared to 23 days reported among non-supertasters.
The study involved almost 2000 people whose abilities to taste were tested using different paper strips. The participants were tested before having COVID-19 as the virus has been known to affect the sense of taste.
Those involved in the study were then categorised into three groups: non-tasters, tasters and supertasters. Non-tasters being those who couldn’t detect bitter tastes, whereas supertasters consisted of those who were extremely sensitive to bitter flavours. Tasters were then classes as the middle group who fell somewhere in-between.
During the study, 266 people tested positive for coronavirus, with non-tasters being much more likely to become infected than their supertaster counterparts and more likely to require hospitalisation. On the other hand, tasters were more likely to experience mild symptoms and often didn’t suffer from severe illness. The only exceptions to the findings were participants with underlying conditions or whose sense of taste dissipated due to age.
Those who can't taste bitterness may want to be extra careful
Researchers are still trying to figure out the link between taste and coronavirus infection, but Dr Alan Hirsch, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, revealed that the study’s results ‘make a lot of sense.’
Researchers have a theory that supertasters are more protected against COVID because of the tongue’s bitter taste receptor known as T2R38. Lead researcher Dr Henry Barham, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Louisiana, explained:
When T2R38 is stimulated, it responds by producing nitric oxide to help kill or prevent further replication of viruses in the respiratory mucosa.
This mucosa lines the respiratory system and is a common point of entry for viruses such as COVID-19.
Dr Hirsch warned that if celery doesn’t taste bitter to you, then it’s best to be extra precautious when it comes to coronavirus:
If you are unable to taste bitterness, you should be that much more careful and wear masks for a longer duration to protect yourself from COVID-19.