The Way Alcohol Tastes To You Is Genetic, So Blame Your Parents For Your Hangover
The way our taste buds react to alcohol is dependent on the encoding of a certain gene, a new study has found.
According to Mashable, a team led by Dr. John E. Hayes of the Sensory Evaluation Center at Penn State in University Park discovered that participants with one version of a taste receptor gene thought an alcoholic beverage tasted less bitter than those with another version.
There are 25 genes found in taste receptors on the tongue used to recognize bitterness.
Hayes and his team studied variations of two of these genes, known as TAS2R13 and TAS2R38, along with another gene called TRPV1 that recognizes “burning” or “stinging” in the mouth.
Everyone carries two copies of TAS2R38, and their sensitivity to bitterness is based on how the genes are encoded.
The 93 participants were made to sip and spit out a drink that was 16 percent alcohol.
Participants rated the drink’s intensity and had their tongues’ reactions evaluated by a cotton swab containing a 50 percent alcohol solution.
Those with two copies of the most sensitive variation of TAS2R38 found the drink to be the most bitter while those with two copies of the least sensitive variation found it to be the least bitter.
Other participants were somewhere in between.
Hayes said, according to Mashable,
We would expect about 25 percent of the population to have two of the really sensitive forms, 25 percent insensitive, and 50 percent in the middle.
Variations of TAS2R38 have previously been proven to determine a person’s taste in food.
It is the coding of this gene that makes a person more able to tolerate acquired tastes like cabbage, kale and even coffee.
Hayes said that having just one copy of the most sensitive version of the gene can have a significant impact on how much a person likes to drink.
He referenced a 2004 study where participants with two sensitive versions of TAS2R38 reported having drank about 134 drinks a year, while those with less sensitive versions reported nearly 290 drinks.
Hayes now wants to find out if people whose genes allow them to tolerate alcohol better are more likely to abuse it.
Still, he said, “the idea that one little biological factor could seemingly have such a large role is pretty stunning.”
The study was published today in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.