Taste for ‘weird and wonderful’ foods, including peppers, is in our GENES, study finds

Whether it’s chicken vindaloo or jalapeño-laden tacos, many people struggle when it comes to spicy foods.

Research has shown that our love of certain foods, including peppers, is rooted in culture and even in our taste buds.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh say that our genes also play an important role.

In the study, the team identified hundreds of genetic variants associated with liking certain foods, including aniseeds, avocados, peppers, steak and oily fish.

“Although taste receptors and thus taste are important in determining which food you like, what we’re actually looking at is what’s going on in your brain,” said study author Dr Nicola Pirastu from Human Technopole in Milan.

Research shows that our love of certain foods, including peppers, has more to do with culture and even taste buds. Instead, researchers at the University of Edinburgh say our genes play a role (pictured).

The researchers used their findings to develop a map that showed three major clusters of genetic differences corresponding to three food preferences—low calorie, acquired taste, and highly palatable (shown in the graph).

The researchers used their findings to develop a map that showed three major clusters of genetic differences corresponding to three food preferences—low calorie, acquired taste, and highly palatable (shown in the graph).

Three main food clusters

The study identified three major clusters of foods that share a similar genetic component:

1. Tasty, high-calorie foods, including meat, dairy, and desserts

2. Strongly flavored “bought” foods such as alcohol, chili, coffee, and wine

3. Low-calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole foods

In the study, researchers used questionnaires and genetic analysis to assess the preferences of 161,625 participants for 137 popular foods and beverages, including beef, beer, bread, chicken, red wine, chili and tea.

Their analysis revealed 401 genetic variants that determined which foods the participants preferred.

Multiple options affected more than one food choice. For example, some genetic variants were associated with an increased enjoyment of salmon only, while others increased liking for fish in general.

Based on the results, the researchers created a food map that showed how genetic variants influenced the participants’ liking for certain food groups and certain flavors.

The map revealed three major clusters of foods that share a similar genetic component.

The first group consists of tasty, high-calorie foods, including meat, milk and desserts.

The second group includes alcoholic beverages and spicy vegetables such as chili.

The researchers created a food map that showed how genetic variants influenced the participants' liking for certain food groups and certain flavors.  The map revealed three major clusters of foods that share a similar genetic component

The researchers created a food map that showed how genetic variants influenced the participants’ liking for certain food groups and certain flavors. The map revealed three major clusters of foods that share a similar genetic component

In the study, researchers used questionnaires and genetic analysis to assess the preferences of 161,625 participants for 137 popular foods and beverages, including beef, beer, bread, chicken, red wine, chili and tea.

In the study, researchers used questionnaires and genetic analysis to assess the preferences of 161,625 participants for 137 popular foods and beverages, including beef, beer, bread, chicken, red wine, chili and tea.

And the third group includes low-calorie foods such as vegetables and fruits.

According to the researchers, these three food groups also share genes associated with specific health symptoms.

The same genetic variants associated with high-calorie foods are also associated with obesity and lower levels of physical activity, while a greater preference for vegetables and fruits is influenced by the same variants associated with higher physical activity.

At the same time, greater similarity of “perceived” tastes is associated with cholesterol profile, physical activity, and likelihood of smoking and drinking.

However, the researchers were surprised to find genetic differences between preferences for the same food category.

For example, they found weak correlations between genes associated with cooked and salad vegetables and those associated with stronger-tasting vegetables such as spinach and asparagus.

“The main division of preferences is not between savory and sweet foods, as expected, but between highly palatable and high-calorie foods and foods that need to be learned to taste,” Dr. Pirastu said.

“This difference is reflected in their preferred regions of the brain, and it points to an underlying biological mechanism.”

The team hopes the findings will help develop healthier foods, improve dietary interventions and lead to drugs to help people lose weight.

Professor Jim Wilson, Chair of Human Genetics at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is a great example of applying integrated statistical methods to large genetic data sets to uncover new biology, which is the basis of how we like to eat. and how it is hierarchically structured, from individual items to large food groups.’

CAPSAICIN: THE COMPOUND THAT MAKES CHILI SPICY

A substance called capsaicin gives peppers their particularly hot, peppery flavor.

There are 23 known types of capsaicinoids and they are all believed to come from the seeds of chili peppers.

It’s not really the taste that causes the tongue and mouth to feel warm, but a reaction to the pain.

The spiciness of peppers is determined by genes that regulate the production of capsaicinoids, and less spicy peppers have mutations that moderate this process.

The molecules have known nutritional and antibiotic properties and are used in pain relievers and pepper sprays.

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