Kamis, 27 Agustus 2009

Can You Taste Bitter Foods?

About 25% of the human population does not perceive vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts as bitter-tasting. The rest of us perceive these vegetables as either mildly bitter or obviously bitter. These differences are determined by a gene that has two variations, or alleles – one for “bitter taster” and one for “non-taster”. The bitter taster allele is dominant, so if you have at least one copy of it you will perceive Brussels sprouts as mildly or intensely bitter.

At what point in human evolution did the ability to taste bitter foods first appear? Recent DNA analysis of a bone of a Neanderthal (an extinct line of archaic humans) indicates that they possessed the bitter taster allele. Therefore, the ability to taste bitter foods probably evolved more than half a million years ago, before Neanderthals and modern humans diverged from a common ancestor.

Evolutionary biologists believe that the ability to perceive bitter taste may have discouraged early humans from eating bitter-tasting plants, some of which are toxic if ingested in large quantities.

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