A chocolate bar tastes different to each of us. How sweet it is and the smaller aspects like subtle hints of nut and texture depend on our genetic variation. Taste perception impacts the food choices we make, our nutrition, and our overall health. Genetically speaking, the taste response we have represents a phenotype. The five taste qualities we have include sweet, bitter, salty, umami, and sour.
The genetics of bitter taste is unique. These genetics illustrate how individuals all experience bitter taste differently. In fact, it is believed that bitter taste evolved from our ancestors. The bitter taste quality is thought to have appeared based on where our ancestors were located varying greatly on the food around them. This is studied to have developed in order to be a defense mechanism for avoiding toxic and poisonous foods. Food includes nutrients, energy, and fat humans need to live but some food also contains harmful parasites, bacterias, and chemicals. By using the bitter taste, our ancestors evolved to better determine the taste of poisons and potentially harmful foods if ingested.
Genetics shows that humans who are more susceptible to the liking of sugar and fat is influenced by a specific genotype. Similar to this, individuals who have the ability to detect bitterness and rotting food have another genotype. Understanding the genotype people possess is highly important and can be used to create tailored programs for individuals. These programs can provide recommendations and dietary guidelines to better support the health of those who are at risk for obesity, inflammation, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.
Below you will find a summary for the gene TAS2R38
Small changes in our DNA have a large impact on the way we perceive taste. The TAS2R38 gene determines if you taste the bitterness of broccoli and spinach or not. To better understand how this gene influences individuals you first need to consider the DNA of the individual. Second, a taste test is done to see what types of bitter tastes they pick up on. Third, scientists paint the tongue blue to expose the taste buds. Locating where and how many taste buds are on the tongue also has a correlation to the sensitivity of bitter tastes. Researchers also take into consideration the ancestry and where they were geographically located. For more information on the ability to taste bitter foods, please read the study below:
We have the capability to test and assess the specific genes individuals have to create a personalized program that reduces their risk of disease. These tests are incredible and providing this information opens up many opportunities to improve overall health. A specific test we use is DNA Health and DNA Diet from DNA Life. A sample of these two tests is shown below:
If you are curious about your health, start by filling out this metabolic assessment form:
The genes we have are similar but all unique. I find it interesting that my son and I drink breakfast smoothies with spinach and find them to be more sweet and tasty. However, the amount of spinach in my husbands breakfast smoothies has to be significantly less as he can taste the bitterness of spinach by looking at it. Along with this, our environment has a lot to do with how our genes express. It is key to feed our bodies and our genes with the food and nutrients they respond best to. This is where genetic testing is very helpful. –Kenna Vaughn, Senior Health Coach
Reed DR, Knaapila A. Genetics of taste and smell: poisons and pleasures. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2010;94:213‐240. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-375003-7.00008-X
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