In 1931, chemist Arthur Fox and other geneticists discovered a single gene that codes for a taste receptor on the tongue. There are multiple versions of this gene, accounting for the variation in how strongly bitter flavors are detected.
In a 2005 study, researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania found that the version of this gene also predicted a child’s preference for sweet foods. Those with one or two copies of the bitter-perceiving gene were more likely to favor foods and beverages with a high sugar content, and less likely to name milk or water as their favorite beverage.
Some of us may know a person who does not care much for sweers. It’s possible they are a supertaster; the name scientists give people who have inherited more taste buds than the average person and therefore taste flavors more intensely. These people tend to shun strong-flavored foods, including rich desserts. This may explain why the supertaster is more likely to be slim.
Though our food preferences have a lot to do with genetics, nurture is just as important. Over our lifetimes we build many complex associations with flavors and scents that can override our DNA.
Not only does genetics have an influence on our taste, so does culture plus nurture. From the article Taste This! it is also abundantly clear that our individual cultures have a major influence on the flavors we seek out and those we pass over on the buffet table. An example of how culture influences our…