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Finally, a scientific excuse to avoid vegetables!

Do you hate vegetables? Well this could be why!

1y ago

Most kids are pretty fussy and will swear blind that they hate vegetables. We all realise eventually that they are actually just hoping this rejection leads to the delivery of more yummy fried chicken or chocolate.

Maybe we are wrong though! You probably know someone who is old enough to know better but still swears they hate vegetables. Most of us put this down to over-dramatic tendencies and assume they want to die young as a result of a trash diet, but it turns out there may be a scientific basis for it.

Here is a bit of science that you can skip if it puts you to sleep!

A tiny little bit of science

We all have two copies of a gene called Taste Receptor 2 Member 38 (TAS2R38) which encodes for, funnily enough, a specific kind of taste receptor which conveys bitterness in the food we eat. There are various versions (alleles) of this gene that have all been sequenced and the alleles that each of us inherit from our parents determine how sensitive the receptor is to the bitter tastes it responds to.

Two of these alleles are known as PAV and AVI (these initials relate to the order of the amino acids in the resultant protein). The PAV allele is most similar to the wild type - the one that most potently conveys the bitter taste. AVI is massively desensitised to the flavour. Because we each have two copies of the gene, we can have two copies of the AVI, two copies of the PAV or one of each (there are multiple other alleles but these are very rare and, for simplicity, i'm ignoring them!).

Predictably, if you have two copies of AVI, bitter flavours will not phase you at all and you probably wonder what all the fuss is about. If you have one of each, like most of us, you will be able to taste the bitterness, but there is a good chance you'll be ok with it and quite like it. Those of us who like things like coffee, which is bitter but delicious! If you have received two copies of the PAV allele, then you are what's known as a 'super-taster' which sounds very cool but you are massively sensitive to bitterness and probably hate a lot of vegetables and coffee and other bitter things.

Why do some people hate veg?!

The less science-y answer is that its all in your genes. There is a gene called TAS2R38 which associated with the bitter taste we get from some veg and coffee. We inherit genes, from our parents, that determine what we can taste, so even if they both quite like veg and coffee, the combination you get from them might mean they you really don't!

Why does this matter

It used to matter because when we evolved to be able to taste things, it was back in the days when most bitter things were poisonous, so it was very useful for us to know what was bitter so we could spit it out and live to tell the tale.

Clearly, this isn't terribly relevant now and, as with other evolutionary tales, we have got rid of the things that are less beneficial and replaced them with things that are more useful now - like the ability to eat healthy things without being repulsed!

So, when you're giving your fully grown friends or family members a hard time about being a child and not eating their greens, prepare to be rebutted with some science!

And maybe consider going a bit easier on the little ones!

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Comments (8)

  • I'm hiding this article from my youngest as we speak....

      1 year ago
  • that is informative! i wonder what i have

      1 year ago
  • Fascinating and good to know as I'm expecting grandchildren, to dine at my table in the near future.

      1 year ago