Our ability to detect bitterness has been developed as a natural warning system to protect the body from harmful substances. So why is coffee a bitter tasting drink – so popular around the world? In evolutionary terms, it’s not meaningful: we should like to spit it out.
Now a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports has been informed of the problem and to find that people who taste bitterness of coffee drink stronger drinks.
For the study, an international team of researchers examined how people experienced three bitters (caffeine, quinine and propylthiuracil or PROP) – something determined by the presence of some genes, according to previous research.
The team examined the relationship between bitter taste and beverage consumption in more than 400,000 men and women using genetic data from the British biobank. The genes linked to the perception of caffeine, kinin and PROP were tested for compounds with how much coffee, tea and alcohol the participants consumed.
“One would expect people who are particularly sensitive to the bitter taste of caffeine to drink less coffee,” said Marilyn Cornelis, a writer of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine study, in a statement. “The opposite results of our study suggest that coffee consumers get a taste or ability to detect caffeine because of the learned positive boost (ie stimulation) induced by caffeine.”
For the most part, people who have an increased ability to taste the bitterness of coffee learn to learn to associate. It was with “good things,” according to Cornelis.
The results showed that those who were more sensitive to caffeine bitterness determined by the presence of some genes drank more coffee, but less tea (possibly because they were too busy drinking coffee).
For his other two substances, the effect was the opposite: Those who were more sensitive to quinine and PROP (a synthetic taste related to the compounds in vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage) drank less coffee but more tea.
In addition, who was more sensitive to PROP drank less alcohol, while higher perception of the other two compounds had no clear impact.
The results indicate that variations in bitter taste perception resulting from genetic differences can help explain why some people have preferences for coffee, tea or alcohol.
“Taste has been studied for a long time, but we do not know the full mechanics,” said Cornelis. “We want to understand it from a biological point of view.”