The effect of barium on perceptions of taste intensity and palatability

Dysphagia. 2014 Feb;29(1):96-108. doi: 10.1007/s00455-013-9487-4. Epub 2013 Sep 14.


Barium may affect the perception of taste intensity and palatability. Such differences are important considerations in the selection of dysphagia assessment strategies and interpretation of results. Eighty healthy women grouped by age (younger, older) and genetic taste status (supertaster, nontaster) rated intensity and palatability for seven tastants prepared in deionized water with and without 40 % w/v barium: noncarbonated and carbonated water, diluted ethanol, and high concentrations of citric acid (sour), sodium chloride (salty), caffeine (bitter), and sucrose (sweet). Mixed-model analyses explored the effects of barium, taster status, and age on perceived taste intensity and acceptability of stimuli. Barium was associated with lower taste intensity ratings for sweet, salty, and bitter tastants, higher taste intensity in carbonated water, and lower palatability in water, sweet, sour, and carbonated water. Older subjects reported lower palatability (all barium samples, sour) and higher taste intensity scores (ethanol, sweet, sour) compared to younger subjects. Supertasters reported higher taste intensity (ethanol, sweet, sour, salty, bitter) and lower palatability (ethanol, salty, bitter) than nontasters. Refusal rates were highest for younger subjects and supertasters, and for barium (regardless of tastant), bitter, and ethanol. Barium suppressed the perceived intensity of some tastes and reduced palatability. These effects are more pronounced in older subjects and supertasters, but younger supertasters are least likely to tolerate trials of barium and strong tastant solutions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Barium Sulfate / administration & dosage*
  • Contrast Media / administration & dosage
  • Deglutition / physiology*
  • Deglutition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Deglutition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Taste / drug effects*
  • Taste Perception / drug effects*
  • Tongue / drug effects
  • Tongue / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Contrast Media
  • Barium Sulfate