Editor’s note: Pending an FDA decision, 23andMe no longer offers new customers access to health reports referred to in this post. Customers who purchased prior to November 22, 2013 will still be able to see their health reports, but those who purchased after that time will not. Those customers will have access to ancestry information as well as access to their uninterpreted raw data.
It’s not a superpower, but the genetics behind being what some call a “supertaster” might make for a pretty good argument against eating your broccoli.
Supertasters have the good fortune, or misfortune, of having highly refined taste receptors. And that discerning palate is genetic.
“Supertasters live in a neon food world,” according Linda Bartoshuk, a professor at the University of Florida Center for Smell and Taste.
In a Wall Street Journal article over the summer, Bartoshuk explained that a relatively high percentage of chefs are supertasters. It’s their genetics that determines their ability to taste what some of us can’t. In this case they have a heightened bitter taste perception.
A variant in theTAS2R38 gene enables supertasters to perceive the bitterness of the chemical propylthiouracil, or PROP. But because supertasters also perceive more saltiness, sweetness and spice, it’s likely there are other genes involved, according to researchers.
A small study published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked specifically at 22 individuals who were called “moderate tasters,” and looked at how the expression of their TAS2R38 genes related to their perceptions of bitterness.
The researchers found that bitter taste perception was correlated with the amount of TAS2R38 gene expressed in the subjects’ taste buds. The gene expression also correlated with self-reported caffeine consumption, though not as strongly.