The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

August 3, 2013

Study shows genetics can determine why we smell certain odors differently

The next time you argue with a friend about the whiff of cilantro in your stir-fry that he finds disgusting, blame his genes.

All of us inhabit our own flavor world that is highly dependent on our genetic blueprint for being able to smell certain odors, according to two studies a New Zealand research group published online Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

The perception of flavor while eating includes what your taste buds can detect — sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami (often called savory) — but they play a meek supporting role to your sense of smell.

That sensory experiences of food differ from person to person has always been known anecdotally. Think of strong, hoppy beer or black coffee that some find revoltingly bitter but others can drink like water. But the researchers wanted to know how much of that variability is genetically hard-wired.

They had 187 people smell 10 different compounds, taking note of who could smell them at a certain concentration level and who couldn't. They sequenced each person's DNA, scanning their genomes to pick out parts that could possibly explain the variations in smell sensitivity.

Out of 10 scents tested, four had a strong genetic basis — malt, apple, blue cheese and violet. They were also independent of one another, so even if you have a super-nose for blue cheese, you might fall short when it comes to smelling violets.

One study found a single gene change linked to the floral scent found in violets. The other study more generally hunted down spots within the genome connected to three additional food-related smells.

Odors typically consist of molecular building blocks called aroma compounds. For example, while blue cheese gives off a whole bouquet of aromas, 2-heptanone is the chemical that really "gives blue cheese its blue cheesiness," said lead researcher Richard Newcomb of the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research.

Text Only
Food & Health
  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • Study: Diabetic heart attacks and strokes falling

    In the midst of the diabetes epidemic, a glimmer of good news: Heart attacks, strokes and other complications from the disease are plummeting.

    Over the last two decades, the rates of heart attacks and strokes among diabetics fell by more than 60 percent, a new federal study shows. The research also confirms earlier reports of drastic declines in diabetes-related kidney failure and amputations.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • 4-15-14 Asparagus photo Make asparagus the center of your plate Asparagus has been a delicious symbol of spring since at least as far back as the Greeks, who called it asparagos -- literally, "to spring up." But however it is spelled, it makes me happy. Most grocers sell asparagus in a range of sizes, from thin a

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Floating stools not alarming DEAR DR. ROACH: I have read that whether stools float or sink could be an indication of one's health, even to the point of being an early sign of pancreatic cancer. Isn't it just about density and gas -- that is, doesn't most food we eat float in wat

    April 15, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 14, 2014

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.