Big ‘R’ and Little ‘r’ Research at 23andMe

23andMe is built on science.  It’s in our DNA.

We are a bunch of scientists, and science enthusiasts, who have a mission to help people access, understand and benefit from the human genome. That means, in part, making sure that our research insights are not walled off into silos that only scientists can see. We want the people who choose to participate in our research to see these insights and how their contributions make a difference.

While we take a traditional approach to rigorous scientific inquiry and publishing our findings — we now have more than 110 papers that have appeared in peer-reviewed publications, some of which have taken months and often years to complete — we also occasionally take a lighter approach to sharing insights from customers who have consented to participate in research.

So we’re excited to be able to share these insights back with our customers during times like Halloween, when we can dig into breakdowns of our customers’ genetic predispositions for sweet vs. salty foods. Here’s a sneak peek:


  • Based on their genes, women in their 90’s are predicted to prefer sweets more than women in any other decade of life. While for men, it is in their 70s.
  • As for regional breakdowns, a higher fraction of people in Oregon are predicted to prefer sweet foods compared to the rest of the country. On the other hand, Hawaii has the highest fraction of customers predicted to prefer salty foods.


One thing to keep in mind is that these are trends that 23andMe has observed based on genetic data from customers who have consented to participate in research. There are many reasons why the predisposition for a sweet food preference may differ between groups or regions, including differences in the ancestral backgrounds of people in a particular segment of the data, or simply random chance.

These fun and engaging findings all benefit from the same innovative data rich research model that 23andMe pioneered, and the deep expertise that our scientists bring to the table. Some of these findings are preliminary, most will never make it into a report or end up in a scientific journal, but they represent another way to share our research and engage with people in the science.

And sometimes these odd findings point to something worthy of deeper study. Can you smell asparagus pee?