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College of Health and Human Sciences

K-State Senior Researches Possible Link Between Bitter-Taste Sensitivity and Type 2 Diabetes

Monday, July 13, 2009

MANHATTAN -- Could an individual's bitter-taste sensitivity help determine their risk for chronic disease?

Kansas State University's Kathy Nguyen, senior in public health nutrition, Garden City, is studying the genotypes of diabetic and non-diabetic individuals to determine if there is a link between the risk for type 2 diabetes and bitter-taste sensitivity.

Nguyen is working with K-State's Koushik Adhikari, assistant professor of sensory analysis, and Mark Haub, associate professor of human nutrition, through the university's Developing Scholars Program, which pairs underrepresented students with faculty mentors for research projects.

Previous studies have been conducted on the relationship between taste sensitivity and chronic diseases and disorders. Nguyen is collecting cheek cell samples from about 60 men and women between the ages of 40 and 70 around Riley and Geary counties. The sample includes people with and without type 2 diabetes.

The researchers will genotype two variations within a DNA sequence to determine if the individuals are supertasters, tasters or non-tasters of bitterness. Supertasters are more sensitive to bitterness than tasters, and non-tasters are not sensitive.

By understanding if bitterness sensitivity is linked to type 2 diabetes, there is a potential to screen individuals for bitterness sensitivity and to use that information as a predictive marker for the disease and other chronic disease such as heart disease and obesity.

"This is a preliminary stage with a small sample size," Adhikari said. "The study has to be repeated with a larger population of different ethnicities to arrive at any meaningful conclusions. However, Kathy will establish the protocol for this project."

Nguyen plans to do public health work in the community or in a hospital. She also would like to travel to a different country to help people with illnesses. "I like to work with different ages of people, and I'm interested in studying other diseases in the future," she said.

Nguyen graduated from Garden City Community College in 2008 with an associate degree in science. She is a 2006 graduate of Garden City High School and is the daughter of Sonny and Cindy Nguyen.

(via K-State Media Relations)

This article was posted on Monday, July 13, 2009, and is filed under Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health, Sensory Analysis Center.