Exploring Ethnic Differences in Taste Perception

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It is well known that nutritional intake can vary substantially as a function of demographic variables such as ethnicity and/or sex. Although a variety of factors are known to underlie the relationship between these demographic variables and nutritional intake, it is interesting to speculate that variation in food intake associated with ethnicity or sex may result, in part, from differences in the perceived taste of foods in these different populations. Thus, we initiated a study to evaluate taste responsiveness in different ethnic groups. Moreover, because of the known differences in taste responsiveness between males and females, analyses were stratified by sex. The ethnic groups tested differed significantly from one another in reported perceived taste intensity. Our results showed that Hispanics and African Americans rated taste sensations higher than non-Hispanic Whites and that these differences were more pronounced in males. Understanding the nature of these differences in taste perception is important, because taste perception may contribute to dietary health risk. When attempting to modify diet, individuals of different ethnicities may require personalized interventions that take into account the different sensory experience that these individuals may have when consuming foods.

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