Early symptoms of COVID-19 are loss of taste and smell. But this week I learned that there is much more to talk about taste.
A paper published last month at JAMA Network Open details the link between taste hypersensitivity and COVID-19 results.
The taste is in the small ridges of the tongue. There are individual differences in the number of taste buds.
For those with the highest number of flavors, all flavors feel more intense. Called a super taster, he dislikes the strong flavors of broccoli, cabbage, coriander and green tea.
The average taster prefers low-tasting, bitter, tasty, and rustic foods. The person with the least taste is classified as a non-taste person. The food tastes dull to them.
Based on a previous study, the JAMA study tracked a sample of 1,935 people from July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020. In the sample, 26% were super tasters, 47% were average tasters, and 26% were non-tasters.
At the end of three months, 266 people developed COVID-19. Non-tasters were significantly more likely to be infected with COVID-19. Of the infected, 21% required hospitalization. Of the 55 inpatients, 86% were non-tasting.
A 2020 study of 100 COVID-19 patients found that 100% of patients requiring hospitalization were not tasting.
A person’s natural immune response consists of physical, chemical and cellular defenses against pathogens. Examples include tears that wash away dust in the eyes and mucus that catches bacteria.
The hypothesis of these studies is that bitter taste receptors play a role in sinus innate immunity. When the bitter taste receptor gene (T2R38) is stimulated, there is a series of reactions that lead to the reduction or destruction of pathogens in the airway mucosa.
For someone like my husband who can’t stand broccoli or coriander, the taste s may have a silver protective film.
Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist practicing in Miami.