Genetic factors and Vegetarianism

Posted on September 5, 2018

Vegetarianism may be more than just a diet choice, as recent studies would suggest. A chemical called 6-7i-propylthiouricil, abbreviated as PROP, has been linked to an individual’s tendency to reject vegetables. A quarter of those who are administered taste test of PROP indicate that they do not taste anything, while on the other end of the continuum, another quarter of people indicate that they taste extreme bitterness – the former are what we call ‘supertasters’. People with high sensitivity to PROP are better able to taste the bitter compounds found in vegetables, which then leads to them rejecting vegetables in favour of other foods. In fact, supertasters are the least likely to become vegetarians compared to others who have a lower sensitivity to PROP.

This sensitivity to bitter compounds is highly correlated to the number of taste cells on your tongue; the higher the number of taste cells you have, the more likely you would be able to taste bitterness when most of your friends would not.
However, all hope is not lost if you happen to be a supertaster – apparently, it is rather common to hate vegetables as a child and grow to like them, or at least, be able to tolerate them to make them a regular dietary staple. It just appears that there may be a genetic reason behind why some people find it much more difficult to give up meat than others.

In addition, it is worthy to note that there is no straightforward ‘vegetarian gene’ despite the above findings. Human traits are a product of a myriad of factors ranging from the biological to the sociocultural. Though some individuals may be born with a higher number of taste cells for example, that does not automatically make them a ‘vegetable-hater’. It may just so be that certain genetic factors contribute to the ease or difficulty that some people have towards making certain dietary choices.


Source material from Psychology Today

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