For the first time, in a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health, the University of Utah and Stanford University, scientists have identified the gene that determines the ability to distinguish a wide class of bitter tastes according to research published in Science February 21, 2003. How individuals are genetically predisposed to respond or not respond to the bitter taste of substances like nicotine and certain foods may have broad implications for nutritional status and tobacco use.
By estimates, more than 10 million American students have been offered “taste” testing to identify their ability to recognize or discriminate bitter taste and to introduce them to inherited traits. In more formal research, anthropologists have tested people around the world, over decades, for this same ability or inability to experience bitter taste.
Why are some people “tasters” and others “non-tasters” and why is it important? The ability to taste,tested using a compound phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), is one of the best studied inherited traits in humans. Studies over the past 70 years, have demonstrated that taste variation is common in the U.S. population: about 30% of the population are PTC (a prototype of a class of bitter substances) non-tasters, while 70% are tasters of PTC, experiencing it as intensely bitter. The ability to taste PTC has been known to be dominantly inherited.
For full story, go to: NIH News
Marin P. Allen, Ph.D.
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