Prof Valerie Duffy - University of Connecticut

“Dislike of healthy veggies could be a genetic trait”

If certain vegetables have always made you gag, you might not just be a ‘picky eater’. Instead, you might be what scientists call a "super-taster:" a person with a genetic predisposition to taste food differently. Super-tasters are extremely sensitive to bitterness, a common characteristic of many dark green, leafy veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, to name a few.

"The person who has that genetic propensity gets more of the sulfur flavor of, say, Brussels sprouts, especially if they've been overcooked," said University of Connecticut professor Valerie Duffy, an expert in the study of food taste, preference and consumption.

"So that vegetable is disliked, and because people generalize, soon all vegetables are disliked," Duffy said. "If you ask people, 'Do you like vegetables?' They don't usually say, 'Oh yeah, I don't like this, but I like these others.' People tend to either like vegetables or not."

In fact, people with the "bitter gene" are 2.6 times more likely to eat fewer vegetables than people who do not have that gene, according to a new study presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association.

"We wanted to know if genetics affected the ability of people who need to eat heart-healthy foods from eating them," said study author Jennifer Smith, a registered nurse who is a postdoc in cardiovascular science at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine.

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