But our food preferences don’t just come from our genes. We know that babies in the uterus will ‘breathe’ amniotic fluid – and that newborns prefer the taste and smell of compounds that their mothers ate a lot of in pregnancy.
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Asked by: Kamila Magmedova, aged 14
Genes can influence whether you can taste the bitter compound phenylthiocarbamide or not (about 30 per cent of Europeans have the variation of the taste receptor gene TAS2R38 that makes them ‘taste blind’ to this cabbage flavour). Even the extent to which your brain’s reward centres respond to bacon could come down to DNA (blame your variant of CNTN5 if you’re addicted to this meaty treat).
And even though we’re all genetically predisposed to be suspicious of bitter compounds – they’re usually toxic to humans – most of us learn to tolerate, or even love, bitter things like coffee, chocolate or alcohol once we’ve discovered their fringe benefits. So your genes may have a lot of influence but they’re far from the whole story.