What if a person’s disgust for bitterness spoke volumes about their body’s ability to resist COVID-19 infection ? A strange link and yet highlighted in a recent study conducted by researchers at Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Louisiana. Their published works in the medical journal JAMA Network Open and relayed by the “National Geographic” indicates that people who cannot stand the bitter taste, which is found in particular in broccoli, celery or kale, may be “super-tasters” – people who are very sensitive to bitterness, and correlate with the severity of their COVID-19 infection.
These people are not only less likely to contract COVID-19 than people who do not feel disgust for bitter flavors, but also less likely to end up hospitalized because of the infection. In addition, the “super-tasters” in this study only exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 for about 5 days, compared to an average of 23 days in the other participants. Researchers don’t understand exactly why or how the taste tastes affects the risk of COVID-19, but have established a theory. Namely that the bitter taste receptors, one of which, called “T2R38”, is found in the taste buds of the tongue.
Upcoming tasting tests?
“When T2R38 is stimulated, it reacts by producing nitric oxide to help kill or prevent further replication of viruses in the respiratory mucosa which is an entry point for viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19. Explains Dr Henry Barham who conducted the study. “These findings have important implications, such as enabling people to make more informed choices and potentially prioritizing vaccine administration. The study involved nearly 2,000 people (average age 46), whose taste capacity was tested using strips of paper, and divided into three groups: non-tasters, super tasters and tasters.
Non-tasters are people who cannot detect certain bitter flavors at all, while “super-tasters” are. extremely sensitive to bitterness and can detect extremely low levels. Tasters fall somewhere in between. During the study, 266 participants tested positive for COVID-19 and it turns out that non-tasters were much more likely to be infected and more likely to have severe COVID-19. Conversely, those who have experienced a great intensity of bitter tastes (super-tasters) accounted for 5.6% of infected patients, suggesting enhanced innate immune protection.
The researchers therefore hypothesize that the more a person has a specific type of bitter taste receptor, the more likely they are to better fight a virus. They also speculate that this link could explain why children suffer from less severe symptoms when infected: the number of taste receptors decreases with age. More research is needed to confirm these results, but it suggests that a taste test could provide a quick and inexpensive way to categorize people with risk for COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. But whether this is the case or not, the scientific team recommends exercising caution in respecting barrier gestures.