If you have arguments with your kids over their reluctance to eat vegetables, do not tell them what we're about to tell you or they'll use it against you. Then again, this might make you take a different viewpoint the next time they grimace at the sight of broccoli on their plates.
When some people say that they hate broccoli or can't stand the taste of Brussels sprouts, they're not just being picky eaters. Not being able to stand the taste of some vegetables actually could be in their genes, a new study shows.
Basically, some people are what researchers call "supertasters," which means they have a genetic makeup that makes some foods — including heart-healthy vegetables — taste bitter.
And not just a little bitter.
"We're talking a ruin-your-day level of bitter," said researcher Jennifer L. Smith.
The study, conducted at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine, was intended to find out why nutritionists encounter so much resistance in getting some people to eat more vegetables. The conclusion: People aren't going to eat them if they can't stand the taste.
"You have to consider how things taste if you really want your patient to follow nutrition guidelines," Smith said.
The skinny on the science is this: Everyone has two copies of the taste gene TAS2R38. The gene has two variants, PAV and AVI. People who inherit two copies of PAV are known as "supertasters" and are likely to find many foods "exceptionally bitter," according to the researchers.
"These people are likely to find broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage unpleasantly bitter; and they may also react negatively to dark chocolate, coffee and sometimes beer," Smith said.
While about 25% of people are "supertasters," another quarter of the population are known as "nontasters." These are the people who have two of the AVI variant and tend to have no sensitivity to bitter foods.
The researchers said they intend to continue to look for new — i.e., more palatable — ways for "supertasters" to incorporate vegetables in their diet. □