The word bitter can make some of us wince. In conversation, we talk of “a bitter pill to swallow” or “bittersweet” memories.
But if you’re puzzled by the bad emotional rap on bitter — perhaps you even like the taste of bitter greens or bitter beer — it may say something about your genes.
Scientists have been studying a particular taste receptor gene to understand why some of us may be more predisposed to liking bitter foods and hoppy beers. And a new study sheds new light on the bitter gene connection.
“What we’re really looking at is that people differ in how intense bitterness might be to them,” says researcher John Hayes, a food scientist at Penn State.
Several years back, Hayes and researcher Valerie Duffy of the University of Connecticut set out to do an experiment. They already knew that some people (about a quarter of the population) have a version of one taste receptor gene, known as TAS2R38, that makes them more sensitive to the perception of bitter. “The idea of how bitter you taste something is [tied to] how strongly the bitter [compounds] in food bind with a receptor,” explains Duffy. Then, the receptor sends a signal to the brain that says, “Oh, this is bitter.”
Read full original article: From Kale To Pale Ale, A Love Of Bitter May Be In Your Genes