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Bitter taste identifies poisons in foods

and spinach. Subjects with the sensitive PAV/PAV form of the receptor rated the glucosinolate-containing vegetables as 60% more bitter than did subjects with the insensitive (AVI/AVI) form. The other vegetables were rated equally bitter by the two groups, demonstrating that variations in the hTAS2R38 gene affect bitter perception specifically of foods containing glucosinolate toxins.

Together, the findings provide a complete picture describing individual differences in responses to actual foods at multiple levels: evolutionary, genetic, receptor, and perceptual. "The sense of taste enables us to detect bitter toxins within foods, and genetically-based differences in our bitter taste receptors affect how we each perceive foods containing a particular set of toxins," summarizes Breslin.

Breslin notes, "The contents of the veggies are a double-edged sword, depending upon the physiological context of the individual eating them. Most people in industrialized cultures can and should enjoy these foods. In addition to providing essential nutrients and vitamins, many are reported to have anti-cancer properties."

Lead author Mari Sandell comments on additional nutritional and practical implications of the study, "Taste has a great impact on food acceptability and choice. A comprehensive understanding how food components contribute to taste is necessary to develop modern tools for both nutritional counseling and food development."


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Contact: Paul Breslin
breslin@monell.org
215-898-5021
Monell Chemical Senses Center
18-Sep-2006


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