Genetic Variants Play Role in Our Food Choices: Study

Genetic variants determine whether or not you can tolerate eating certain vegetables, according to new research.

TAS2R38 predicted lower consumption of vegetables in people who possessed the PAV haplotype. Image credit: Jerzy Górecki.

TAS2R38 predicted lower consumption of vegetables in people who possessed the PAV haplotype. Image credit: Jerzy Górecki.

“Taste matters when it comes to altering your diet. If you aren’t appealing to your tastes when you make dietary changes, it may be hard to stick with them,” said study’s lead author Dr. Jennifer Smith, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Kentucky.

“This research helps bring understanding that taste is an important feature of food choice, which can greatly impact patient care.”

In the study, Dr. Smith and her colleagues focused on a specific gene that makes certain compounds taste bitter, making it more difficult for some people at risk of cardiovascular disease to add heart-healthy veggies to their diet.

“Choosing a heart-healthy diet is one way to reduce cardiovascular disease risk,” Dr. Smith said.

“Taste is an important factor in food choice, which makes this discovery useful for providers who need to guide their patients’ nutritional habits.”

Everyone inherits two copies of variants on a gene called TAS2R38; these two variants are AVI (alanine-valine-isoleucine) or PAV (praline-alanine-valine).

“The combination of these variants determines your taste,” Dr. Smith said.

“People who have an AVI/PAV gene perceive bitter tastes of these chemicals, while individuals with PAV/PAV make-up find the same foods exceptionally bitter — they’re often called ‘super-tasters’.”

“Broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage are usually the worst culprits for those with the super-taster gene,” she noted.

“It’s possible dark chocolate, coffee and sometimes beer can turn them away, too.”

The study involved 175 participants (72.6% were female, 89.1% were overweight or obese and 82.9% were non-smokers) with the mean age of 52 years.

Those with a PAV variant were more than two and a half times less likely to consume a lot of vegetables.

“If you do find certain veggies impossible to tolerate, try others — there is a great variety of healthy and nutritious, fiber-packed vegetables,” Dr. Smith said.

“I’m hoping to expand my research in the future to investigate different herbs and spices that will make eating bitter-tasting vegetables more acceptable.”

The scientists presented the findings November 16 at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019 in Philadelphia, PA.

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Jennifer Smith et al. TAS2R38 Haplotype Predicts Vegetable Consumption in Community Dwelling Adults at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease. American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019, NR.AOS.351

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