If you have a hard time passing up a piece of cake or a bag of chips, it may not be a lack of willpower. In fact, your genes may be quietly calling the shots behind the scenes.
That’s the upshot of recent findings by nutrition researchers at Tufts University, who found that taste-related genes may play an influential role in food choices.
In a study of more than 6,000 adults, the scientists evaluated how the genetics of taste perception are associated with eating certain foods.
For example, people who have a stronger perception of bitter tastes are likely to eat less broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. While other studies have assessed genetic factors linked to single taste sensations among smaller groups, the current study is the first to examine all five taste sensations across a broad sample of American adults. It is also the first study to assess the link between food preferences and the genetic variants responsible for taste perception.
To do that, the researchers used data from broad genetic-association studies to determine which genetic variants were associated with each of the five basic tastes — sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory. That information was used to develop a “taste score” that calculates a person’s tendencies to prefer certain foods.
Researchers say the genetic underpinnings of food preferences have important implications. For example, someone with a strong aversion to broccoli or Brussels sprouts might choose to add certain spices or eat other vegetables that better align with their taste perception.
It’s important to remember you are what you eat — even if your genes are subtly guiding your taste buds.