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Can’t stand veggies? You may be a “supertaster”

Following a doctor’s advice to eat more daily servings of vegetables as part of a heart-healthy diet is not an easy task for those who have inherited a certain gene … one which makes many healthy foods taste extremely bitter. A study presented at the American Heart Association’s recent Scientific Sessions showed that having this genetic trait is directly related to one’s eating habits when it comes to vegetables. 

Everyone inherits two copies of a gene related to taste, researchers explained. People who inherit two copies of a genetic variant called AVI aren’t sensitive to bitter tastes from certain chemicals present in many vegetables. Those with one copy of AVI and another variant called PAV can perceive bitter tastes of those chemicals, but most still find them tolerable. Finally, people with two copies of PAV – the “supertasters” – find the same foods exceptionally bitter.

The study involved analyzing food frequency questionnaires from 175 people, and comparing their vegetable intake with their genetic profiles. It found that people with only the PAV form of the gene were well over twice as likely to rank at the bottom on the number of vegetables eaten.

“Your genetics affect the way you taste, and taste is an important factor in food choice,” said Jennifer L. Smith, Ph.D., R.N., a study author.  “These people are likely to find broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage unpleasantly bitter; and they may also react negatively to [foods like] dark chocolate, coffee and beer.” 

“Down the road we hope we can use genetic information to figure out which vegetables [supertasters] may be better able to accept, and which spices appeal to those supertasters so we can make eating vegetables easier for them,” Smith added.

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