Ancestrally, we sought out sweet and umami tastes because they gave us energy and protein – we needed these to survive. Sour flavors could be a sign that something had spoiled, so we proceeded with caution. Bitter tastes could signal poisons that might kill us, so we needed to avoid them.(1,2) At some point, of course, we no longer made our food choices to survive, but to suit our preferences.
Chemicals (known as PTC and PROP, for short) taste incredibly bitter to some people, but not at all to others. People who recognize PROP as more bitter tend to be more likely to dislike and avoid bitter food (much to their mothers’ dismay). About 75% of people find PTC and PROP as very bitter, but about 25% do not find them bitter at all.(1) Those who do taste it seem to recognize many or all other taste categories as well.
If you can't, I'd love to hear from you. You might have the foodie gene in your family, too.
- Catazaro D. et al. Relationship between food preferences and PROP taster status of college students. Appetite. 68:124-131. 2013.
- Drewnowski A. et al. Genetic taste markers and food preferences. Drug Metabolism and Disposition. 29:535-538. 2001.