Coronavirus: Sensitivity to bitter foods may reduce Covid risk, study claims

0

People who are super sensitive to bitter foods may have a lower risk of severe Covid, a study claims.

Researchers suggest that people who find the taste of things like wine, broccoli, celery, grapefruit or Brussels sprouts overwhelming are less likely to contract the coronavirus.

These people are known as “supertasters,” and they have a greater number of receptors in their mouths and noses that enhance natural defenses against infection.

A team of doctors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found that the supertasters were 10 times less likely to test positive for coronavirus, and none of those in the study were hospitalized.

“If you can’t taste bitterness, you have to be much more careful,” said an expert, Dr Alan Hirsch.

The biggest factor influencing a person’s Covid risk is their age – middle-aged or elderly people are significantly more likely to get sick – while the best way to protect yourself from serious illness is to be fit and healthy and long-term illnesses.

The study found that supertasters had a younger average age, suggesting that the receptors fade over time and being less able to taste bitterness corresponds to old age, both of which are linked to a higher risk of covid.

Children, meanwhile, often dislike bitter food and are almost at no risk of Covid. The team said more research was needed.

Nose and throat doctors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, studied nearly 2,000 people and found that those who had difficulty tasting bitterness were four times more likely to end up in hospital with Covid (stock image)

Nose and throat doctors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, studied nearly 2,000 people and found that those who had difficulty tasting bitterness were four times more likely to end up in hospital with Covid (stock image)

Dr. Hirsch, who was not involved in the study but is director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, said: “The new findings make a lot of sense … If celery tastes bitter to you, you’re a super taster, and if if not, be careful.’

The study was done by nasal specialists – nasal experts – in the US, involving 1,935 people from local doctor’s offices and hospitals.

They all did taste tests to find out if they were ‘non-tasters’, who didn’t really notice the bitterness; ‘supertasters’, who were very sensitive to it; or just ‘tasters’ somewhere in the middle.

WHY CAN FINDING BITTER FOODS PROTECT YOU FROM COVID?

The reason a person’s sense of taste may be associated with their Covid risk, the Baton Rouge researchers said, lies in receptors in the mouth and throat.

Receptors called T2R38 taste both bitter and nitric oxide, which can kill viruses.

Nitric oxide also stimulates the tiny hairs in people’s respiratory tract known as cilia, which move mucus and fragments of viruses and bacteria that get into them to push them back out of the body, protecting against infection.

People who have more of the receptors are therefore both extra sensitive to bitter foods and extra good at naturally fighting off viruses that enter the respiratory tract, such as the coronavirus.

One of the researchers, Dr. Henry Barham, told the website: Wine finder: ‘When these receptors are activated, they do several things, including increasing the function of the cilia [small hairs that move viruses out of the airways] and increasing mucus production.

‘They also produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide has been shown to inhibit the spike protein of the virus that causes Covid-19.’

The study adds: ‘Differences in the function of airway taste receptors may be a result of reduced innate immunity and a predisposition to certain respiratory infections and inflammatory disorders, and T2R38 functionality in the tongue correlates with nasal symptoms in healthy individuals. ‘

Half of the people were in the middle, while the remaining half were split 50/50 between super tasters and non-tasters, suggesting that about one in four people is one of them.

Most people won’t know which group they fall into, but paper strip tests like the ones used in the study are available online.

In addition to the taste tests, people in the study had a Pap smear and blood work to make sure they hadn’t had Covid in the past and hadn’t had it at the start of the experiment.

After the tests, everyone was followed for three months by researchers in July, August and September 2020 to see if they had contracted the coronavirus.

In total, 266 people tested positive for the virus and 55 of them were hospitalized.

Only 15 of the 266 were super tasters, while 104 were regular tasters and 147 were in the group that could not taste bitterness.

People with the weaker taste buds were therefore 10 times more likely to test positive, the scientists said. They also made up 47 of the 55 hospitalized patients, while none of the patients belonged to the super-sensitive group.

The reason a person’s sense of taste may be associated with their Covid risk, the researchers said, lies in receptors in the mouth and throat.

Receptors called T2R38 taste both bitter and nitric oxide, which can kill viruses.

Nitric oxide also stimulates the tiny hairs in people’s respiratory tract known as cilia, which move mucus and fragments of viruses and bacteria that get into them to push them back out of the body, protecting against infection.

People who have more of the receptors are therefore both extra sensitive to bitter foods and extra good at naturally fighting off viruses that enter the respiratory tract, such as the coronavirus.

One of the researchers, Dr. Henry Barham, told the website: Wine finder: ‘When these receptors are activated, they do several things, including enhancing the function of the cilia and increasing mucus production.

‘They also produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide has been shown to inhibit the spike protein of the virus that causes Covid-19.’

The study adds: ‘Differences in the function of airway taste receptors may be a result of reduced innate immunity and a predisposition to certain respiratory infections and inflammatory disorders, and T2R38 functionality in the tongue correlates with nasal symptoms in healthy individuals. ‘

The study was published in the journal JAMA network opened by the American Medical Association.

.