New York, November 18 (IANS): Are you tea or coffee? The answer may be in your genetic predisposition to bitter tastes, say researchers. This can be because bitterness acts as a natural warning system to protect us from harmful substances. A study led by researchers at Northwestern University in the United States and the KIMR Berghofer Institute for Medical Research in Australia explored reactions to three bitter substances – caffeine, quinine and propylthio-uracil (PROP) – to understand how they affect people who want to drink tea, coffee and alcohol.
The results showed that people who were more sensitive to caffeine and drank lots of coffee consumed a low amount of tea. In other words, people who have an enhanced ability to taste the bitterness of coffee – and especially the bitter taste of caffeine – learn to connect "good things with it".
"You would expect people who are particularly sensitive to the bitter taste of caffeine to drink less coffee," said Marilin Cornelis, assistant professor of preventative medicine at the Feinberg Medical School at Northwestern University. "The opposite results of our research suggest that coffee consumers gain the taste or ability to detect caffeine due to the learned positive caffeine boosting (stimulation)." The study, published in the Scientific Reports magazine, also found that people are sensitive to bitter tastes of quinine and PROPs, and the synthetic taste associated with compounds in potatoes avoids coffee. For alcohol, a higher sensitivity to the weariness of PROP has led to a reduction in the consumption of alcohol, especially red wine.
"Findings suggest that our perception of bitter taste, informed by our genetics, contributes to the benefits of coffee, tea and alcohol," said Cornelis. Scientists have applied Mendelian randomization, a technique commonly used in the epidemiology of the disease, to test the causal relationship between bitter taste and consumption of beverages in more than 4,00,000 men and women in the UK.