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December 31, 2003

Genetics of taste

Article here for those interested in the genetics of taste (kind of old, 1998). Here are some interesting points:

The incidence of taste blindness to PTC/PROP varies around the world, from 3% in western Africa to >40% in India (see MIM 171200). Approximately 30% of the adult Caucasian population of North America are taste blind to PTC/PROP (i.e., are nontasters) and 70% are tasters.
Capsaicin, the compound responsible for the oral burn of chili pepper, is more intensely hot to PROP tasters than to nontasters (Bartoshuk et al. 1994; Tepper and Nurse 1997).
If liking of chili was closely linked with PROP-taster status, then areas of the world where chili is widely consumed would have a high frequency of nontasters in the population.

I am a non-taster and a confirmed chili pepper addict. Please note that the original article makes clear that spice is also an acquired taste (your own ceiling goes up with usages).

Here is an article on spice:

... why do spices taste good? Traits that are beneficial are transmitted both culturally and genetically, and that includes taste receptors in our mouths and our taste for certain flavors. People who enjoyed food with antibacterial spices probably were healthier, especially in hot climates. They lived longer and left more offspring....
Accordingly, countries like Thailand, the Philippines, India and Malaysia are at the top of the hot climate-hot food list, while Sweden, Finland and Norway are at the bottom. The United States and China are somewhere in the middle, although the Cornell researchers studied these two countries' cuisines by region and found significant latitude-related correlations.

Abstract for the original article.

Posted by razib at 07:27 PM