To determine the distribution of the perceived intensity of salt, sweet, sour, and bitter in a large population and to investigate factors associated with perceived taste intensity.
Subjects (n = 2374, mean age=48.8 years) were participants in the Beaver Dam Offspring Study examined during 2005-2008. Perceived taste intensity was measured using paper disks and a general labeled magnitude scale. Multiple linear regression was performed.
Mean intensity ratings were: salt=27.2 (standard deviation [s.d.]=18.5), sweet=20.4 (s.d.=15.0), sour=35.7 (s.d.=21.4), and bitter=49.6 (s.d.=23.3). Females and those with less than a college degree education rated tastes stronger. With adjustment for age, sex, and education, stronger perceived sour and bitter intensities were related to current smoking (Sour:B=2.8, 95% Confidence Interval [CI]=0.4,5.2; Bitter:B=2.8, 95% CI=0.3,5.4) and lipid-lowering medications (Sour:B=5.1, 95% CI=2.5,7.6; Bitter:B=3.2, 95% CI=0.6,5.8). Alcohol consumption in the past year was related to weaker salt (B= −2.8, 95% CI= −5.3,−0.3) and sweet intensity ratings (B= −2.3, 95% CI= −4.3,−0.3) while olfactory impairment was associated with higher sweet ratings (B=4.7, 95% CI=1.4,7.9).
Perceived intensities were strongest for bitter and weakest for sweet. Sex and education were associated with each taste while age did not demonstrate a consistent relationship. Associations with other factors differed by tastant with current smoking and alcohol consumption being related to some tastes.