Oh no...sprouts!

Oh no...sprouts!

It's everyone's least favourite Christmas food, but if you don't like them, you can blame your genes!

Try a sprout next time someone cooks them for you. Go on, I dare you. Still not convinced? What about broccoli or cauliflower? Do you know anyone who does like these vegetables? You can tell these veggie lovers that they're insensitive: they can't taste the bitterness that everyone else can taste.

I happen to love sprouts (OK, I know I'm weird), but loads of people don't like them. Now, at last, you have an excuse. It's genetic!


Mmm...tasty sprouts!

It's all in the genes

Researchers fed lots of volunteers different vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower and the dreaded sprouts. They found that there are several different types of the tongue receptor TAS2R. People who have the 'sensitive' form of this receptor can taste bitter chemicals that are present in vegetables such as sprouts. This is what makes them taste disgusting to a lot of people.

Why do some people have a 'sensitive' receptor?

Researchers are still trying to work this out. Some things that taste bitter can be harmful, so perhaps people evolved a sensitivity to these bitter tastes so that they wouldn't be poisoned by their food. However, maybe in other areas where harmful bitter tasting chemicals are rare in food, the benefits of a nice bit of nutritious green veg outweighed the risk of poisoning. This meant that an 'insensitive' taste receptor developed. Around one third of us have 'insensitive' TAS2R receptors, so we can't taste the bitterness in sprouts and other leafy green vegetables. I'm one of these people!

Taste receptors are also thought to change over time. This could be why more adults than young people like the taste of broccoli or sprouts. Or maybe they just put up with it.



I think this girl has a sensitive TAS2R receptor!

Try it out

The next time you're at the dinner table, why don't you carry out a mini scientific study. Who likes sprouts? Does it run in the family: could it be genetic? Do more adults like sprouts than younger people?

Let us know what you find out!

Right, now we know all about them, Planet Science is going to find some tasty sprouts for dinner...