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Your taste genes might determine what you like to eat and your health

There is a distinct connection between diabetes and heart disease. Diabetics are twice as likelyTrusted Source to have heart disease or a stroke.

Because of this correlation, much research is now centering around a person’s cardiometabolic health, which refers to both heart conditions and metabolic conditions such as diabetes that affect a person’s metabolism.

Previous studies have examined the impact of different lifestyle modifications such as diet, exerciseTrusted Source, and sleepTrusted Source on improving a person’s cardiometabolic health.

Now, researchers from the Cardiovascular Nutrition Lab at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University suggest a person’s genetic preference toward different tastes may impact their overall food choices, resulting in an influence on their overall cardiometabolic health.

The researchers presented the study at Nutrition 2022, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.

Taste-related genes and cardiometabolic health

For this new research, Julie E. Gervis, a doctoral candidate in the Cardiovascular Nutrition Lab at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and the lead author of this study, said they wanted to look at why people find it difficult to make healthy food choices, and therefore increase their risk for diet-related chronic diseases.

They also wanted to examine why people do not always eat what is good for them but eat what tastes good to them.

“We wondered whether considering taste perception could help make personalized nutrition guidance more effective, by leveraging drivers of food choices and helping people learn how to minimize their influence,” she told MNT.

“And since taste perception has a strong genetic component, we wanted to understand how taste-related genes were involved,” she added.

First, the researchers used prior data from genome studies to identify genetic variants related to the five basic tastes. From there, they developed a tool called the polygenic risk score, which they also dubbed the ‘polygenic taste score’.

The higher the score for a specific taste, the more the person is genetically predispositioned to recognize that taste.

Then, Gervis and her team examined data — including polygenic taste scores, diet quality, and cardiometabolic risk factors — from over 6,000 adult participants of the Framingham Heart Study. Cardiometabolic risk factors included waist circumference and blood pressure, as well as triglycerideTrusted Source, cholesterolTrusted Source, and glucoseTrusted Source levels.

The researchers found a correlation between a person’s polygenic taste score and the types of foods they chose.

For example, the research team documented those with a higher bitter taste score consumed almost two servings less of whole grains each week than those with a lower bitter taste score. And those with a higher umami score ate fewer vegetablesTrusted Source, especially red and orange ones, than those with a lower umami score.

They also found links between polygenic taste scores and certain cardiometabolic risk factors.

For example, researchers reported participants with a higher sweet score tended to have lower triglyceride levels than those with a lower sweet score.

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