The effect of genetically-mediated taste acuity for 6-N-propylthiouracil (PROP) on food choice and diet-related disease

  • Pamela Madden

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Taste acuity for the bitter taste of 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) is a heritable trait. Some individuals perceive concentrated levels of PROP to taste extremely bitter (supertasters) or moderately bitter (medium tasters), whereas others detect only a mild taste or none at all (non-tasters). Heightened PROP acuity has been reported to be associated with greater acuity for a variety of compounds found in ordinary foods, although there are some inconsistent findings. The extent to which these compounds are perceived may affect food likes/dislikes and dietary intake. The majority of studies have tended to measure food likes and intake using questionnaires or laboratory preparations of a single taste quality. The present study used food diaries and sensory responses to real foods to be better able to generalise to real eating situations. There was no substantial evidence that genetically mediated taste acuity for PROP had a direct influence on food likes/dislikes or intake, although there was evidence that dietary restraint could have influenced these findings among the female samples. However; investigation of PROP tasting among individuals with coronary heart disease (CHD) and a control group suggested that PROP acuity could function as a genetic taste marker for heart disease and potentially other diet-related conditions. CHD was associated with decreased PROP acuity among men. This is consistent with the findings that decreased PROP acuity tended to be associated with increased likelihood to be a smoker and higher body mass index. It is concluded that there is not a simple and direct relationship between PROP tasting ability and food choice. An interaction between PROP acuity and other
mediating factors may be involved in a more complex model of food choice. The
evidence that PROP taste acuity may function as a genetic taste marker for coronary heart disease could have wide implications for understanding the aetiology, and ultimately the prevention, of diet-related disease.
Date of AwardSept 2001
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMarie Falahee (Supervisor)


  • supertasters
  • food likes/dislikes
  • dietary intake
  • coronary heart disease
  • diet-related disease
  • psychophysics

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