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The Smell of Food Tied to DNA, Study Reports

Update Date: Aug 05, 2013 10:17 AM EDT

The taste of food and drinks is unique for every individual. For example, blue cheese is one of the types of food that people often debate about. Some people love the smell and the taste of this cheese while others find it pungent and hard to eat. Although people's opinions about blue cheese and other foods for that matter have a lot to do with taste buds, how individuals smell food plays a huge part. According to a new study, the researchers report that people are capable of smelling foods differently from one another due to genetic mutations in one's DNA.  

For this study, the research team headed by geneticist, Richard Newcomb from the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research, decided to shift its focus from examining the sense of smell in insect to humans. Newcomb stated that not enough research is done on how humans use the sense of smell when it comes to tasting food and drink. With his research team, Newcomb picked 10 scents, which ranged from blue cheese to eucalyptus, to test.

The researchers recruited around two hundred of people in order to test their sense of smell. The participants were given three wine glasses. Two of the glasses were filled with regular water while the third one was filled with the particular scent that was diluted in water. The participants were asked to sniff all three and identify the glass that contained the particular scent. The researchers then took blood samples to look for any relationship between DNA and sensitivity to the scent.

"We were surprised how many odors had genes associated with them," commented Jeremy McRae from the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research reported by Daily Mail. "If this extends to other odors, then we might expect everyone to have their own unique set of smells that they are sensitive to."

The researchers were able to identify four fragrances that could be tied to genetics. These scents were apples, violets, blue cheese and malt. Newcomb explained that there was a specific gene for each particular scent. People who had the gene had the inclination of preferring these types of food to people without the gene. In a follow-up study, the researchers identified the gene mutation specifically for violets. According to the team, the mutation occurred on chromosome 11. The researchers noted for some people with this genetic mutation, they were 10,000 times better at sniffing out this fragrance.

"I appreciate that we're all different, and there are many different combinations of abilities to smell different compounds," Newcomb said. "So don't give your mate a hard time when you're having a glass of wine and he doesn't quite get the violet not that's written on the back of the bottle."

The studying was published in Current Biology.

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