Genetics and your Sense of Taste

in #science4 years ago


Today in the “general” room of, @steemsausage was proudly telling me about the meal she had been preparing for an hour. Then her roommate came home and complained about the coriander in it. It’d “taste like a washcloth”.

But why does he hate the taste so much, while @steemsausage said that “if that was the only food left on earth, [she] would be happy having one every day”? It seems a bit more extreme than just the usual difference of “I don’t like this” and “I like this”.

For once, the answer is not hormones but genetics.

To a certain amount of the population (21% of East Asians, 17% of Europeans and 14% of people with African roots), coriander tastes like soap, or something similarly awful.@suesa

Some of my North American readers might now wonder what I am talking about, what is coriander? Coriandrum sativum is also called cilantro. You had to be that extra, didn’t you?


Interestingly, the genes that are suspected to cause this extreme dislike for coriander aren’t genes linked to tasting but to smelling. One of them is called OR6A2. It’s responsible for the production of a receptor that recognizes (aldehyde chemicals](, which can be found in coriander. For some, that brings a pleasant smell and thus taste - for others it tastes like soap or a washcloth.

One researcher in the publication I read about this (linked below) recommended crushing the coriander which causes the aldehyde to be broken up. They even provided a recipe for a pesto-sauce with the herb.

1/2 cup [c. 75g] toasted almonds
3 cups coriander leaves and tender stems (about 2 bunches)
1 or 2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup [120ml] extra virgin olive oil
2/3 [c. 70g] cup grated aged sheep’s milk cheese like Nisa, Serpa or pecorino-Toscano

If you’re sensitive to coriander, you should totally try this out and then tell me if it worked. Do it, for science!

OR6A2 isn’t the only gene that can make you hate certain foods. TAS2R38 (who comes up with this dumb names) encodes a receptor that allows you to taste so-called glucosinolates, which taste bitter. They can be found in kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard and several more plants from the brassica family.


Yes, all the plants I just named are related to each other. In fact, they’re basically all descendants of the wild mustard. Take that, GMO-opponents!

TAS2R38 is probably also the cause why some people think wine tastes bitter. They’re called “tasters”, those who don’t taste this bitterness are “non-tasters”. Maybe that explains all those people who can drink kale smoothies with no issue, I always thought it’s disgusting.

Aside from non-tasters and tasters, there are also supertasters who have more fungiform papillae (the bumps on your tongue), which hold more taste buds. The difference is 15-35 papillae in a circle with a 6-millimeter diameter (I wonder who measured this) to 35-60 in the same area.

The result is that bitter tastes like in coffee are absolutely disgusting, while sweet and sour are a lot stronger.

Especially sweet and sour taste can be enhanced for normal tasters too though, by stress. Researchers found that healthy, stressed individuals are a lot more sensitive to those two tastes.


In contrast, people suffering from anxiety and depression might taste less because of lower serotonin and dopamine levels. Increasing the amount of these neurotransmitters also increases the sensitivity to taste again!

Smell and taste are complex senses, influenced by many genes. Before I end this post, I wanted to present a genetic disease to you, which, among other things, impacts the sense of smell.

The Kallmann syndrome is passed down on the X chromosome and is recessive, which means that if there’s a healthy copy of an X chromosome too, it isn’t a problem. As men only have one X chromosome, the number of men who suffer from Kallmann syndrome is about 4 times as high (1 in 30,000) than the number of women (1 in 120,000).

The more visible effects are a puberty that’s either delayed or doesn’t happen because certain sex hormones aren’t produced. That comes with the usual issues (for men: micropenis, undescended testicles, possibly no facial hair, the voice doesn’t get deeper; for women: no periods) and must be treated with replacement hormones. If that doesn’t happen, those who suffer from it will be infertile.

And, as I mentioned at the beginning, it also comes with an either very weak or completely missing sense of smell. And this missing sense of smell is apparently also accompanied by a very weakened sense of taste, at least in the individual I once knew who suffered from this.

Genetics. It’s weird.


Soapy taste of coriander linked to genetic variants

Kallmann syndrome

TAS2R38 taste 2 receptor member 38

Are You a Supertaster?

Association between taste receptor (TAS) genes and the perception of wine characteristics


How stress affects your food: from distorted tastes to comfort eating

Pictures taken from


GIF was created for me by @saywha and @atopy , rest of the signature by @overkillcoin


This could be a great tool to mess with people, starting to put a lot of coriander in all the food I make when people come over and visit. While most would enjoy the food (hopefully), there could be certain people who would think it tastes horrible unless they like soap.

The best part would be that most people wouldn't want to say it outloud. Especially if others go all "Wow this is delicious" and someone thinks "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU ALL?"

But that someone has to do it in silence, suffering in every single time they visit me.

That is epic! I will use that… probably…

I really recommend this to you too. I don't mind if someone takes my idea, because I'm already living in a position when nobody wants to visit me - especially if I'm cooking anything.

That is the most diabolical plan ever!

Much like why I did not ask before making the meal.... more for me!!

Hey @reggaemuffin how could I get a resteem from you? I noticed you have a lot of resteems on your blog so I was just curious? Also I am quite a reggae fan... just as a side note ;-). hehe thanks, hope you hear back from you. :D

I resteem things I like and/or feel that my followers deserve/need to know about. Hope that helps :)

That's really true, only meaningful and good content should be resteemed. Respect.

Bad choice of words :)

@reggaemuffin dear have a look on my recent post i have posted some thing on you.
Dont mind if this way un appropriate

Really Interesting post. Thumbs up

"Who comes up with these names" believe it or not there is actually a system for gene nomenclature (set by the HUGO gene nomenclature committee), just like there is for naming chemicals... thankfully we're never forced to learn the in's and outs of the HUGO system in biology class (poor oganic chemists!).

I think you've actually just given me a great idea for a blog post though :)


Shhhh I know that there are systems and stuff. But the names still suck :P
And don't remind me of my organic chemistry class. IUPAC sucks.

Haha, honestly they sound so random I can barely believe it takes a whole comittee what could be done with a random number generator!

There's also a polymorphism making you hyper-sensitive to a compound found in pork. My boss is a carrier, and a barbecueing with her is no fun at all ;-)

I read that too during my research but didn't find the correlating gene so I left it out :P

I wonder if the cultures who are non-pork eaters are afflicted with this hyper sensitivity more so than the cultures who eat pork?

interesting, i'll blame my genetics the next time i try something i don't like and show them this article. i guess im a part of the 20% that dislike cilantro.

A very interesting post. One of the Chefs at work loudly always shouts that coriander tastes just like soap and that we've all been brainwashed. I think he'll appreciate being right for once, in a manner of speaking.

Thank you for telling me what is wrong with me :-) Me and most of my Bulgarian friends really hate the taste of cilantro, we all think it's too strong and yeah, taste like a soap. But we love parsley, I could eat parsley with a spoon for example. I have a lot of latino friends and it's exactly the opposite way, they love cilantro, but parsley it's too strong for them and they hate it. I always thought that is because we are used to the flavour of parsley because it is used for many salads, dressing and dishes,and Bulgarians don't use a lot of cilantro that's why we dislike it, but now I know - it's in my genes. Thank you @suesa !

I am a "non-taster" we checked by PCR and restriction digest at my previous job just for fun.

Which makes sense because I don't find broccoli and the like bitter.

Hi there,
New to steemit. Very awesome post! As a foodie and future doctor, I love reading articles like this! The science behind food/genetics behind taste is fascinating! Thank you for enlightening us!

Coriander is called "Efo ebolo" in my native language. I really don't like it much because it gives me itchy tongue. I never knew it was due to genetics. Thanks for sharing this information @suesa. As a microbiologist I'd do more research on this. Your post has been helpful. Genetics really is weird. Lol

As a microbiologist, you should totally join the steemit science community on in the #steemSTEM channel!

Am really happy to join. Thanks

Superinteresting article again! I really love you diving into subjects and give us a lot of answers :) I personally like coriander but its one of those herbs wich you either like or dont like. There is not much of a between with that one.

This is the perfect explanation how the Slavic nations enjoy the fermented cabbage while the French people can't stand it...

I've always been interested in this subject, because I find myself wondering who do some people hate the food I love and the other way around. Science always has an answer, I guess! I think it's fascinating that each of us can feel different tastes with certain foods! I have a lot of friends who hate certain vegetables (for example, carrots) and I that is unbelievable to me! But hey, I guess we have different tastes, lol...

But carrots are a pretty undesirable food to begin with, no?

As a someone from asian origin we are using coriander at regular basis. My parents often refer coriander seeds as a remedy for having cold. Personality for me , coriander taste in food gives its a unique favor. So we often consume them.

Very neat! I agree about the names too; you'd think people smart enough to do all this genetic peepery could at least be imaginative enough to come up with names that don't sound like they were rejects from license plates!
On another hand I love all those plants with the exception of Kale... it can take a flying leap!

"rejects from license plates" I love it.

And yeah, I really love most of these plants too but ...Kale? Why would someone eat that.

Either Rejects or Answers from this show we had up here in Canadia!

This The Kallmann syndrome I guess since it's genetic, it can't be cured right?

Not cured but at least treated. If the affected take the correct hormones, they can go through puberty and even have children.

Oh well I was starting to wonder whether the possibilities of genetic disorder can ascertain a cure

Love it! Most of the people give me very strange looks when I say - no, I really DON'T like cherry/chocolate dessert combination! Now I have an excuse ;)

Hello @suesa,
I love your post but I don't always have time to comment on them with my twins baby, I'm so busy: -) It's crazy what science can explain! About depression, if the taste is diminished then it is normal that depressions are often accompanied by loss of appetite?

Yes, that often happens but might be tied to some more things than just the diminished taste :)

I understand a whole lot about myself since I started reading you. I am those who find coriander's smell better than taste. I also dislike the taste of melons and cucumbers. To me, they smell like uncooked pumpkins and boy do I hate pumpkins. Lol.

But seriously, never knew it has to do with genetics. I have always blamed my tastebuds. This is because I have trained them to like stuff they disliked like sweet potatoes. I guess I assumed I can train them to like what I don't!

Thank you for sharing as always :)

in my regional, many foods use cilantro. It smells strong and is able to provide a very strong taste. It's like a mandatory menu like grilled chicken and jerky. I'm from Southeast Asia obviously have different flavors including in cooking seasoning
Thank you very clear reviews :D

When I finished dinner, I said to him, wow you must have hated that! I secretly knew about this love-hate​ relationship, but I couldn't risk his answer being I hate it, so I went ahead and made the dinner how I and many of my friends have come to love it (I love coriander so much that I doubled it up!! ) he said, Yes but I ate most of it...(because you slaved over dinner) I said so it tasted like dishcloths, he said 'Yep, but the chicken was delicious!' I have another friend who thinks it takes like soap. It's​ a love it, or a hate it thing! Thank you for the very interesting read @suesa, what I​ found most interesting is that the dressing (much like the pesto recipe) had and handful​, and I mean FULL of coriander​ which I​ blended with a stick blender till it was fine as fine, and he didn't​ mind the dressing, (as with the pesto recipe where you say the aldehyde is broken up) which for Hamish was lucky, because he heaped it on... So potentially I think Jamie Oliver's "Kicking Chicken" recipe may have proved this theory. What do you think?I feel sorry for Hamish the coriander​ hater.

On further investigation, (as Hamish the 'coriander hater' has just arisen from his coriander infused slumber) with a massive headache and some more interesting news. He hates coffee, and wine as well. (this is too good to be true!) We will be the best of housemate​' ​ if I​ can keep my coriander addiction under control, and to myself. I wonder if he has a headache​ from the coriander. We will blame Jamie Oliver for that I​ think. Hamish also assures you his voice is deep, his balls have dropped and he says he his penis is not micro!

I really liked your post, before I would have thought that the genetics would have something to do with the tastes a person has plus you have very detailed information on the subject, you have my vote insurance and a new follower!

Yes!! Validation feels so sweet! Cilantro is such an invasive flavor to me. If it's in anything that's all I can taste. Great post :)

Also another reason why some diets don’t work for everyone! Cool post :)

The Kallmann syndrome is passed down on the X chromosome and is recessive, which means that if there’s a healthy copy of an X chromosome too, it isn’t a problem. As men only have one X chromosome, the number of men who suffer from Kallmann syndrome is about 4 times as high (1 in 30,000) than the number of women (1 in 120,000).

It is called sex linked traits. The traits whose genes are located on the sex chromosomes only (other chromosomes are called autosomes) which are homozygous dominant. The reverse would have been the case if the disease is sex linked but heterozygous. Baldness and haemophilia are also sex linked

The more visible effects are a puberty that’s either delayed or doesn’t happen because certain sex hormones aren’t produced. That comes with the usual issues (for men: micropenis, undescended testicles, possibly no facial hair, the voice doesn’t get deeper; for women: no periods) and must be treated with replacement hormones. If that doesn’t happen, those who suffer from it will be infertile.

It is called Klinefelter syndrome and it is as a result of non-disjunction during meiosis.

I know what a sex linked trait is. And no, Kallmann syndrome and Klinefelter is NOT the same.

Thanks for writing it so understandable and still precise!
I wander if we can genetically engineer some really unhealthy food to produce and contain one of those substance - let's say glucosinolates, making us/the tasters hate it

Probably but why should anyone do this? The process is costly and only means a loss of profit. There's no real upside, especially because the original plants would still exist.

Oh, I didn't think of the big picture... just as fun experiment.

Itz just amazing to hear that genetics is responsible for the change in taste among various people but I would rather take it contradictory and I think it is related to psychology of a person, because of my personal experience, as once I used to eat radish often but now I hate radish because that tasted bitter once and that phobia is still in my mind

If this Kallmann syndrome is heredity, i feel there should possibly be a treatment for it.

Well, you can treat but not cure it. By giving the affected the correct hormones, they can still go through puberty. Doesn't help much with the sense of smell tho.

Hello, if I like cilantro hahaha good soup and a good stew takes cilantro greetings from Venezuela if you can visit my blog I would appreciate it : D @suesa

Hah, I learnt of this fact before. It is just strange one specific plant can taste like a soap. What could lead evolution to equip us with this gene?

Probably to avoid toxic stuff. It's usually the reason.

Yep, there are many toxic organic chemicals, whichs struture is very similar to benefical chemicals. I hoped for better story :)

Sorry, the story usually is "so we don't die" :P

In the plant kingdom, each part has its own awesome story. So is in the animal kingdom. I love the lessons of my biology teacher, when he knows many correlations and he wants us to guess them. They are complicated but logical.

I disagree it is "so we don't die". If it was true, we could get subjugated by other species, afraid of them and hidden in the dark. It is rather "so we survive". In the past years, when average IQ increases, it is even "so we dominate".

Nice are now educated on this aspect

Nice looks delicious....I especially liked the fresh green coriander leaves.

Ohhhh. This is why sometimes my sense of taste is different from other people. Thanks for the information!😀

Thanks for sharing good info

Thank you @suesa for sharing, am studying engineering, though I enjoy read biochemistry and I do hope I get married to a biochemist :) thank you for refreshing my mind the last time I was taught about the tongue and it's taste buds was in highschool

This was really enlightening. Now I understand why some people say honey tastes bitter.

As a genetician I am very happy to see that people are really interested about it because actually it is not only about health. Genetics tells us perfect style of randomizing ... For me it is not a working field like chemistry. It is a tool or like an algorithm to use but first we should explore it ;)

I'm a geneticist to be :P should have my degree in june/july.

I understand you very well :D The world need us especially after these days... I would like to expand the topic in steemit because what I have been seen is just bitcoin is very popular :D

Well, you should join the steemit science community. Go to and join the #steemSTEM channel, we'll be waiting for you :D

I used to think coriander tasted like soap. Over the years, I've grown accustomed to it and now really enjoy the taste. I wouldn't say it tastes like soap to me now.

How can this be explained??

You got used to it. That works too :P but the fact that it initially tasted like soap was genetic.

I keep wondering why some people will just say this food taste different while other will say this is delicious . At times i got confused on who is saying the truth, but now with your explanation i can tell who is saying the truth from some of the basic fact i read here.

This article is pretty insightful, could this same genetics link be the reason for the often stereotypical statement on blacks liking chickens more? I know I am black. I like chicken too :)

D.W. Griffith's seminal and supremely racist 1915 silent movie about the supposedly heroic founding of the Ku Klux Klan was a huge sensation when it debuted. One scene in the three-hor features a group of actors portraying shiftless black elected officials acting rowdy and crudely in a legislative hall. (The message to the audience: These are the dangers of letting blacks vote.) Some of the legislators are shown drinking. Others had their feet kicked up on their desks. And one of them was very ostentatiously eating fried chicken.

"That image really solidified the way white people thought of black people and fried chicken," Schmidt said.

Oh...steroreotypes :)
Thanks for this beautiful share. I will bookmark it asap

All is about gene when people like something while u hate that things, gene not only your health but also your lifestyle.

Because a somebody from Asian actual origin we are now utilizing coriander on the routine basis. My families usually suggest coriander nuts because a cure for owning cool. Individuality to me, coriander choice in foodstuff provides the distinctive prefer. Therefore we frequently use all of them.

This post just made me crave cilantro and lime.

Especially sweet and sour taste can be enhanced for normal tasters too though, by stress.

Great discussion you put up. Personally, I am indifferent to taste. Although, I prefer tasteless food and drinks. This is because I am not sure if my taste bud can differentiate too well between this kind of things.

I like to add some important info to your great post: Most people think, frozen Food is more healthier as the fresh vegetables, Why? Because the company suggest us, that they product is cut fresh ( yes of course thats right ) and get frozen very fast. So yeah, thats right- the vegetables didnt be around for some hours like the vegetable on the market to, because they already fast frozen. BUT, what is frozen? Is frozen food more healthier as the still allive ones? I my opinion not. Even some years ago, some Institute and professor made a test with a special camera. they show, that the frozen food have less live inside as the non frozen vegetables. And if you think with Clear mind, thats of course true. Every living person or plant will die to be frozen. die, means dead. No love any more. Of course vitamins are still there, but the vegetables are not any more alive. THAT is, what is important. We are a living organism, and we need living food.

I don't see how this connects to my post tho.

Corrainder is common in our south east dishes. It is excessively used as it is beneficial for digestive system, it lowers bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. it can stimulate insulin secretion and good for diabetic patient. i second @apsu opinion it's a great food to eat. nice post @susea keep sharing

Fascinating post, could it be possible that our tastes/appreciation for certain types of food is actually based on our genetics? Wow, that's a very interesting concept.

Lol...Who comes up with such names. Lol. The Human system is really complex and different. Now I understand why some people take coffee black with so much ease , sometimes I wonder if they really don't add anything else in it and over here I try it and I just want to puke. Thanks for sharing. Please check this out🙏...

Good post, I am a photographer, it passes for my blog and sees my content, I hope that it should be of your taste, you have my vote :D greetings

Very nice info

hmm very good post thank you

Such a great, wonderful and useful topic

nice information

this is a really interesting post, my great grandfather on my fathers side was a prisoner of war i think in ww2 and they were only fed cabbage......i hate cabbage unless its in coleslaw lol

Lol. Waoh. Science is really does interesting. I hated genetics in high school biology. I've always wondered why my dad and i both have the same allergic reaction coriander. Yet my siblings can kill for it.

I love the delicious food and taste. Nice post @suesa.

yummy ... Very delicious! I hope you have a good appetite. Greetings from Venezuela

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