Study indicates that preference for coffee or tea is influenced by genetics.
Do you prefer tea or coffee? Whatever the choice, it is not just your will. The taste appears to be partly determined by genetics, as a study done with the British and published in the journal “Scientific Reports” reveals.
According to the study, people genetically predisposed to prefer bitter tastes, generally choose, without surprises, coffee, by their higher bitter content.
With human evolution, we have developed the ability to detect bitterness as a natural warning system to protect the body from harmful substances. In evolutionary terms, therefore, we should want to reject more bitter coffee.
Study participants genetically more sensitive to bitter taste, however, were more likely to prefer coffee to tea.
«It would be expected that people who are particularly sensitive to the bitter taste of caffeine would drink less coffee,» said Professor of Preventive Medicine Marilyn Cornelis, co-author of the study.
«The opposite results from our study suggest that coffee drinkers acquire a taste, or ability, to detect caffeine, due to the learning of positive reinforcement caused by caffeine,» she said.
«This suggests that coffee consumers develop a taste, or a greater ability to detect caffeine,» said Marilyn.
So, added the researcher, individuals genetically pre-programmed to enjoy the bitterness of coffee learn to associate «good things with it.»
Liang-Dar Hwang of the Diamantina Institute of the University of Queensland, who co-authored the study, told AFP that the fact that some people prefer coffee shows how day-to-day experiences can overcome genetic tendencies when it comes to taste.
The perception of taste is also influenced by our behaviors. People more sensitive to bitter flavors of quinine and to a taste-related plant components are more likely to avoid coffee in favor of their sweet counterpart, the tea.
«Even if humans naturally do not appreciate bitterness, we can learn to like or appreciate bitter foods after being exposed to environmental factors,» he said.
Coffee drinkers are generally less sensitive than tea drinkers to bitterness, which makes them less likely to reject other bitter foods, such as greens, Hwang added.
Based on the genetic data of about 438,000 British participants, the study for the time being “is not generalizable to other countries and cultures,” warn the authors.
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