Taste phenotype associates with cardiovascular disease risk factors via diet quality in multivariate modeling

Mastaneh Sharafi, Shristi Rawal, Maria Luz Fernandez, Tania B. Huedo-Medina, Valerie B. Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Sensations from foods and beverages drive dietary choices, which in turn, affect risk of diet-related diseases. Perception of these sensation varies with environmental and genetic influences. This observational study aimed to examine associations between chemosensory phenotype, diet and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Reportedly healthy women (n = 110, average age 45 ± 9 years) participated in laboratory-based measures of chemosensory phenotype (taste and smell function, propylthiouracil (PROP) bitterness) and CVD risk factors (waist circumference, blood pressure, serum lipids). Diet variables included preference and intake of sweet/high-fat foods, dietary restraint, and diet quality based on reported preference (Healthy Eating Preference Index—HEPI) and intake (Healthy Eating Index—HEI). We found that females who reported high preference yet low consumption of sweet/high-fat foods had the highest dietary restraint and depressed quinine taste function. PROP nontasters were more likely to report lower diet quality; PROP supertasters more likely to consume but not like a healthy diet. Multivariate structural models were fitted to identify predictors of CVD risk factors. Reliable latent taste (quinine taste function, PROP tasting) and smell (odor intensity) variables were identified, with taste explaining more variance in the CVD risk factors. Lower bitter taste perception was associated with elevated risk. In multivariate models, the HEPI completely mediated the taste-adiposity and taste-HDL associations and partially mediated the taste-triglyceride or taste-systolic blood pressure associations. The taste-LDL pathway was significant and direct. The HEI could not replace HEPI in adequate models. However, using a latent diet quality variable with HEPI and HEI, increased the strength of association between diet quality and adiposity or CVD risk factors. In conclusion, bitter taste phenotype was associated with CVD risk factors via diet quality, particularly when assessed by level of food liking/disliking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-112
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Cardiovascular disease risk factors
  • Central adiposity
  • Diet quality
  • Food intake
  • Food preference
  • Taste


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