While most of us would agree that fat (when properly used) makes food taste amazing, new research shows this isn’t a steadfast law. Our enjoyment of fats lies, at least in part, on having the right genes for it.
New research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania found that our genetic makeup plays an important role in our enjoyment (and even perception) of fatty foods.
“Person-to-person diversity in the positive perception of fattiness derives partially from an individual’s genetic make-up,” said senior author Danielle Reed, PhD, Monell Associate Director.
“How the taste, smell, and flavor of food and drink affect liking, and therefore the amount and type of food consumed, ultimately affects human health.”
The team worked with identical and fraternal twins who had reached adulthood and attended the annual Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, OH, in 2018.
Participants were asked to rate how good low- and high-fat potato chips tasted, and estimate how much fat they contained. Participants also gave a saliva sample so the team could look at their DNA.
Genetically-identical twins had more similar preferences for the chips compared to fraternal twins (which are more genetically-distinct). The team also sequenced the genetic material of these participants, looking at hundreds of thousands of locations in their DNA strands where relevant genes were likely to lie.
The use of twins allowed the team to compare very similar genomes, and they identified two new specific gene variants that correlated with the enjoyment of fatty food.
The findings are important because our enjoyment of food drives our purchasing patterns, the authors explain.
“Most people assume more liking drives more intake, but decades of research tell us the reverse is true — we avoid what we don’t like,” said Hayes. “I may love bacon, but if I listen to my cardiologist, I’m still not going to eat it every morning.”
The results suggest that although fats are an important part of our food, some people are born with a genetic makeup that pushes them to like, or avoid, fat. In the future, the team plans to examine whether such factors are universal by testing people around the world with different types of fat in different food items.
The paper “Studies of Human Twins Reveal Genetic Variation That Affects Dietary Fat Perception” has been published in the journal Chemical Senses.