Do Men Taste Food Differently?

Do Men Taste Food Differently?
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Do Men Taste Food Differently?

Do men and women taste sweet, salty, bitter and sour flavors differently? Read on to find out.

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It is a well-known fact that women generally have more taste buds than men and therefore may have more sensitive taste. Some studies have shown that women may have a lower threshold detection for sour, bitter and salty tastes than men, while other studies demonstrate no significant differences.

Women also generally demonstrate stronger olfactory performance, which may help explain their enhanced taste sensitivity since smell and taste work together to create the sensation of flavor.

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A gender difference in taste perception is seen in children as well. In a 2008 Danish study involving 8,900 Danish school children, scientists found that girls were better at recognizing tastes than boys for all concentrations of sweet and sour flavors. On average, boys needed approximately 10% more sourness and 20% more sweetness to recognize flavors.

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This same study found that girls preferred more muted flavors, while boys had a preference for more extreme flavors. Boys liked super sweet flavors and gave top marks to the most sour-tasting samples.

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Interestingly, as children mature into teenagers they experience a shift in taste preference and perception. At around 13-14 years of age, individuals develop greater sensitivity to sourness, less preference for super sweet and a less fussy attitude toward new foods.

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Sex hormones may also play a role in gender differences of taste sensitivity and preference. Studies show changes in taste threshold for saltiness and bitterness during human pregnancy and suggest that hormones act directly on both the central nervous system and on taste buds.

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Sweet and Salty

Research on gender differences in taste sensitivity and perception for adults has shown mixed results for perceiving sweet and salty flavors. Some studies have shown that there are insignificant differences between the sexes, while other research has found women to perceive sweetness with greater intensity and suggests that men like sweet or salty food more than females.

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Genetics plays a role in determining a person’s ability to taste bitter compounds PROP and PTC, and increased sensitivity to PROP means an increased sensitivity to bitter taste. This genetic variation for PROP sensitivity is related to the supertaster trait, which is characterized by the ability to perceive flavors more intensely. Women are more likely to be supertasters than men, with 35% of women categorized as supertasters while 15% of men are categorized with this trait.

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A 2006 study examined how the balance of sweet and sour tastes affected fruit consumption for boys and girls and found that boys had a greater preference for sour tastes.

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While it is commonly believed that men prefer diets rich in protein and fat and women choose foods high in carbohydrate/fat and sugar, research from Sweden suggests that there is no significant gender difference among obese patients. Instead, recent studies suggest that genes play an important role in fat preference; last year, Penn State researchers discovered that people with a certain form of CD36 gene have stronger preference for foods high in fat content.

While science has provided some insight into sex differences in taste sensitivity and perception, more studies are necessary for conclusive results.

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It's common to serve meat, potatoes and other carb-heavy, protein-packed foods on Father's Day, and usually there's plenty of grilling and swigging involved - but can science explain why men prefer this type of food? The study of the differences in taste perception between the sexes is still largely unexplored, but what we were able to uncover may surprise you.

Check out the slideshow above to find out if men and women perceive taste differently.

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