Taste: genes decide if food tastes bitter

You eat little vegetables and therefore feel bad? US researchers are now offering a possible excuse for Vegetable Growers: some people are genetically programmed to avoid the bitterness common to vegetables such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts.


"We're talking about a day-is-ruined-level of bitter," says study author Jennifer L. Smith of the University of Kentucky, who presented the findings at a conference in Philadelphia. This may explain why some people find it so difficult to integrate vegetables into their diet.


"Super-taster" eat less green vegetables


Whether someone finds food to be particularly bitter depends on the gene TAS2R38. It encodes a protein in the taste receptors of the tongue and exists in two variants, called AVI and PAV.


People who own two AVI copies are hardly sensitive to bitter substances. On the other hand, if two PAV versions are available, those affected are considered "super-tasters" who perceive certain foods as extremely bitter. If someone has an AVI and a PAV copy, the sensitivity is somewhere in between.


Why these different manifestations of the sense of taste exist is unclear. From an evolutionary point of view, however, it might have made sense to avoid bitter, possibly poisonous foods, the researchers suspect.


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For the analysis, they had examined 175 subjects. It turned out that the "super-tasters" with two PAV versions ate on average less green vegetables, such as broccoli or brussels sprouts. The gene variant, however, had no effect on how much fat, sugar or salt ate someone.


"If you want to get your patients to stick to nutritional recommendations, remember their tastes," says Smith. The researchers now want to investigate whether spices can cover the bitter taste.


However, anyone who disgusts the vegetable dish and orders a beer at the same time can not rely on his genes. Because they make sure that often not only broccoli tastes particularly bitter, but also dark chocolate, coffee and beer.

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