Fussy Tasters Can Blame Their Genes

ABC Science Online brings intriguing news for those of us with an adversarial relationship to sour food. Nature, not a fussy personal sense of taste, plays a pivotal role in our sensitivity to sour flavors.

As is the case with all manner of sensitive tasting, ability to pick up on tiny concentrations of sour flavor is a mixed blessing; a dish that generally registers as pleasantly tangy to the masses might taste overwhelming and unpalatable to an extrasensitive sour taster.

And we’ve got twins to thank for the insight.

The [research] team compared the abilities of 74 pairs of identical twins and 35 sets of non-identical twins to taste saltiness and sourness.

Because identical twins have nearly identical genes and fraternal twins share about half their genes, genetically speaking, scientists often use twin studies to figure out how much genes affect individual characteristics.

In this case, the twins were asked to taste cups of water containing small amounts of sour citric acid, or salt. The researchers kept increasing the concentration of the solution until the twins could recognize the taste.

For whatever reason, the ability to taste salty flavors did not track along genetic lines.

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