Need to Know
  1. Your genes may determine how intensely you experience sugars
  2. That doesn't necessarily mean you like sugar more or less
  3. Future research: understanding if this affects food choices

Did you know that cats don’t have taste buds capable of registering sweetness? Scientists have been aware for a while now that the feline genome lacks a sweet tooth, and this discovery led to the hypothesis that there might be a similar genetic variation among other species — including humans.

A set of researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center recently put this hypothesis to the test in a study looking for potential variation in the human perception of sweetness. Groups of identical and fraternal twins, in addition to nontwins, were given four types of sugar and asked to rate the overall sweetness of the sugars. The researchers then compared the results between the twins (whose genes are either almost identical or about half the same) and the nontwins. The results of the study showed “that genetic factors account for about 30 percent of the variance in sweet taste perception between people for both the natural and artificial sugars,” NPR reports. In other words, some sugars taste more intensely sweet to some people, and at least part of the reason appears to be biological.

While they did not locate the exact gene set responsible for these differences, this suggests that genes do influence a person’s taste buds one way or another.

This doesn’t necessarily indicate whether you have a greater or lesser love of sweets, though. Researchers are still trying to figure out whether the genetic predisposition influences taste preferences or even food choices. We’ll see, though — this may come to explain why some of us lust after all things sugary, while others have a relatively apathetic sweet tooth.

Image Source: Flickr user Moyan Brenn