Do you like bitter leafy greens and enjoy hoppy IPA’s or do you cringe when you even think of these items? It is true that your taste buds mature as you age and can change over time, but overall taste is one of the many things that can be influenced and even determined by your genes. The aversion to bitter tasting foods and drinks comes from many years of evolution and could have even saved your life thousands of years ago. This means that your taste choices may, in fact, be a result from your genes and not just you being a “picky eater”.
Bitter tasting things, in the hunter-gatherer time period, usually meant “POISON, DO NOT EAT!”. Today, bitter foods have become a staple in many people’s diets with foods such as leafy green vegetables like kale and arugula and others like Brusselss sprouts, lemons, grapefruit, spices like ginger and much more. Another example that is growing in popularity around the globe and is known for its bitter taste are India Pale Ale beers. IPA’s have unique and strong flavors, but for some, the bitterness is too much.
One of the most common genes responsible for determining if you will like bitter foods is TAS2R38. This gene, in particular, is linked to taste receptor on the tongue, specifically for bitterness. Some have a heightened sensitivity to bitterness in foods while others seem to not taste bitterness at all, or taste it very mildly. For example, I found through the AGS Health & Wellness Genetic Test that I have the CT genotype which means, I am much less likely to taste the bitterness in certain foods -- and I believe it holds true to my taste tendencies. However, my colleague’s genotype is CC, which has an increased sensitivity to bitter foods. When I asked her what she thought of bitter tasting food I wasn't very surprised with her responses until she said that her favorite vegetable is Brussels sprouts. This is due to the ratio of what makes you who you are -- that genetics makes up about 30% of this and is accompanied by 30% environmental factors and 40% behavior choices. This means that your taste buds are not set in stone and if you are determined to like these types of veggies and beers, you can “train” your body.
Got a sweet tooth? Gene SLC2A2 can tell you...
Something that ties very closely to your sensitivity to bitterness is your ability to taste sugar and the level of sweetness in foods. Your “sweet tooth” may actually be a product of your genes as well. Research published by American Psychological Society - Genomics shows that people with a certain DNA difference in their SLC2A2 gene ate more sugar than people with other genotypes. The researchers hypothesize that these individuals may be less sensitive to the amount of sugar in their blood. This implies these individuals may eat more sugar in order to feel full.
Finding out if you have a “genetic sweet tooth” or an aversion to bitter tasting foods can be very helpful in creating a diet that will work for you. You can make substitutions for healthier sweets like stevia, honey, bananas or syrup and choose vegetables that won't make you gag.
Getting to know your body genetically is becoming very popular and very helpful these days. Take an AGS Health & Wellness Genetic Test today to learn more about you and maybe even improve your diet, weight, energy levels, and lifestyle. Contact any of the AGS staff for more information or purchase your test online today!