Some People Are ‘Genetically Wired’ To Avoid Vegetables

by : Lucy Connolly on : 13 Nov 2019 15:02
Some People Are 'Genetically Wired' To Avoid VegetablesNBC Universal Television Distribution/Public Domain Pictures

Picture the scene: you’re about eight years old and have rushed home from school, excited at the prospect of having pizza or something equally as unhealthy for tea.

You run into the kitchen and scream, ‘WHAT’S FOR TEEEEAAAAA’ with pure unbridled joy, slamming down your book bag onto the table as your thoughts immediately turn towards food.


Then, just as you’ve let your excitement reach uncontrollable levels, you hear the dreaded word: vegetables. Obviously, other food was mentioned – your family weren’t monsters, for God’s sake – but your mind focused solely on the one causing you the most anguish.


Kids hate vegetables, it’s a well-known fact (mostly). But it’s also a well-known fact as we grow up, we tend to grow out of our hatred as our taste buds adapt and vegetables become a part of life.

Not for everyone though, as new research has found some people are ‘genetically wired’ to dislike some vegetables, with those who have two copies of a particular taste gene affected.


US scientists suggested this could explain why some people find it difficult to include enough vegetables in their diet, as the excess gene provides a ‘ruin-your-day’ level of bitterness to foods such as broccoli and sprouts.

The gene may also make beer, coffee and dark chocolate taste unpleasant.


So which gene is actually responsible? Everyone inherits two copies of a taste gene called TAS2R38, which allows us to taste bitterness by encoding for a protein in the taste receptors on the tongue.


However, there are different variants of the gene, with people who inherit two copies of a variant called PAV finding certain foods exceptionally bitter. These people are often referred to as ‘super-tasters’.

In contrast, people who inherit two copies of a variant called AVI are not sensitive to bitter tastes in food at all, whereas those with one copy of AVI and one of PAV perceive bitter tastes slightly.

The scientists studied 175 people and found those with two copies of the PAV variation of the gene only ate small amounts of leafy green vegetables.


Dr Jennifer Smith warned this could prevent some people from eating their recommended five-a-day of fresh fruit and veg, with the doctor adding, ‘You have to consider how things taste if you really want your patient to follow nutrition guidelines.’

Just as we had the coriander debate a few months ago, this new research seems to have given all of us veg-haters an excuse as to why we’re maybe not being as healthy as we possibly could be.

Sorry, doc.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Food, Life, Science


American Heart Association
  1. American Heart Association

    Sensitivity to bitter tastes may be why some people eat fewer vegetables