Humans can detect five different flavours — sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savoury. About a quarter of the population can’t taste the bitter, whereas another quarter are hyper-sensitive to even the smallest quantities of this flavour. Everyone else falls somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. But the ones that are more adept at detecting bitter have something on the rest of us — better immune defenses.
Researchers found that their receptors (T2R38s) will set off an alarm in the respiratory system when they spot the slightest hint of something bitter on their radar. They act like security guards and produce a response to an invading bacterial infection, and develop more biofilm or mucus to keep the sickness at bay.
So while you might have a little bit of a runny nose, if you are super sensitive to the taste of, say, coffee or dark chocolate, there’s a chance you’re less prone to a nasty sinus infection. [University of Pennsylvania via Futurity]