The Gene For Sweet: Why We Don't All Taste Sugar The Same Way : The Salt We know that a gene can determine how strongly we experience bitter flavors. Scientists wanted to know if this was also true for sweet. Their study shows genetics may affect our taste for sugar, too.

The Gene For Sweet: Why We Don't All Taste Sugar The Same Way

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/425609156/426674379" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're also tracking this news. Apparently, some of us are born with a taste for certain foods. To be more precise, some people may have a gene that makes them more likely to enjoy sweet foods. Here's Eliza Barclay of NPR's food blog, The Salt.

ELIZA BARCLAY, BYLINE: You'd be hard-pressed to find a human being who can't stand sweet treats. But we don't all crave sweetness.

DANIELLE REED: If you go to Starbucks, you can see some people are putting little or no sweetener in their coffee, whereas other people are asking for a lot more sweetness.

BARCLAY: That's Danielle Reed, a scientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. She wanted to find out what determines our perception of how sweet something is.

REED: We would think that how we're raised and sort of the shared family table might have a strong influence, and we really didn't see that.

BARCLAY: Instead, Reed and her colleagues found that about 30 percent of the variation seems to be in our DNA. They report their findings in the journal of Twin Research and Human Genetics.

REED: Twins are just a really tantalizing and hard-to-resist natural experiment.

BARCLAY: Since identical twins share almost all of their DNA, twin studies are one way to try and tease out what preferences we might be born with versus the ones we learn from our environment. Reed says there might have been an evolutionary advantage for some of us to be more sensitive to sweetness.

REED: Hunter-gatherers who are relying on plant food for nutrition might be more sensitive to sweet, whereas humans that are eating predominantly meat might not have any sense of sweet at all.

BARCLAY: Today, Reed speculates there might be an advantage to being more sensitive to sugar. Those who are might need to eat less to get their fix. Eliza Barclay, NPR News.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.