Taste perception is influenced by several factors. However, the relation between taste perception and food culture is unclear. This study compared taste thresholds between populations with different food culture, i.e. Thai and Japanese. A matched case-control study was conducted in 168 adults (84 for each; aged between 50 and 90 years). The age, sex, systemic disease, medication, smoking, xerostomia, and oral hygiene of both groups were not different. Recognition thresholds (RTs) of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami were measured using filter paper disc (FPD). Detection taste thresholds were measured using electrogustometry. Spicy preference was measured by calibrated questionnaires. Higher RTs of all tastes and higher detection taste thresholds were found in Thai as compared to those of Japanese (P < 0.0001). Separate analyses of healthy and unhealthy persons confirmed the significant differences between 2 countries. The average thresholds for sweet, salty, sour, and bitter in Thai and Japanese were 4 and 2, respectively. The average threshold for umami in Thai and Japanese was 5 and 3, respectively. Moreover, Thai population had stronger preference for spicy food (P < 0.0001) with 70% mild- or moderate and 10% strong lovers, compared to over 90% non- or mild-spicy lovers in Japanese. In addition, 70% of Thai consumed spicy food weekly, whilst 80% of Japanese consumed it monthly. Our findings suggested that population with stronger spicy preference such as Thai had much poorer taste sensitivity and perception than that with milder preference like Japanese. Extensive international survey is needed to conclude the influence of food culture on taste perception.
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