New Study Finds That Our Genes May Dictate The Foods We Eat

Can't stand the bitterness of broccoli? Blame it on your genetics. Although external factors like lifestyle, environment, and socioeconomic status can affect how we decide to nourish ourselves, your DNA might also have something to do with these choices. A recent study from the American Society for Nutrition revealed that taste-related genes might actually be responsible for dictating the foods we choose to eat.

While CNN reports that previous research found a connection between genetic variants of singular tastes and how they impact our food preferences, new developments from the recent study instead analyze receptors for all five tastes (sweet, salt, sour, bitter, umami), determining how food aversions can impact health. 

Julie E. Gervis, a doctoral candidate in the Cardiovascular Nutrition Lab at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, explains, "Considering taste perception could help make personalized nutrition guidance more effective by identifying drivers of poor food choices and helping people learn how to minimize their influence," per the American Society for Nutrition.

Genetics affect our perception of taste

Developing a polygenic taste score, the American Society for Nutrition reports that researchers were able to determine how genetic variation can influence taste perceptions — basically, a high score for a particular taste means that you're more predisposed to perceive its intensity, which can explain why you steer clear of certain foods.

Examining the scores of over 6,000 adults, alongside their diet quality and cardiometabolic risk factors like waist circumference, cholesterol level, and blood pressure, the study showed a significant link between taste-related genes and well-being. For example, genes related to umami and bitterness influence food choices and diet quality since participants with higher bitter polygenic taste scores ate less whole grains per week in comparison to those with a lower score. Meanwhile, those with a higher umami score ate fewer vegetables. 

In contrast, the study also showed that genes related to sweetness directly affect health as participants with a higher sweet polygenic taste score often had lower cholesterol levels.

These new findings are key in providing insight into exactly why we might not be inclined to eat certain foods, which, according to US News, can help dieticians better understand their patients' food aversions and offer suggestions for different and unique preparation styles.