Scientists have located a taste receptor that determines how well people can tolerate bitter-tasting vegetables. Broccoli, turnips, rutabaga, and other bitter vegetables possess compounds called glucosinolates. The taste receptor hTAS2R38 reacts to glucosinolates, and a person’s genes determine how sensitive their hTAS2R38 receptors are to those compounds. Certain people find glucosinolates to be more bitter than others.
There’s a genetic advantage to disliking broccoli. In parts of the world with inadequate levels of iodine, glucosinolates can exacerbate the problems of thyroid disease. In those circumstances, too much broccoli can cause sexual dysfunction and mental retardation. In that case, a genetic predisposition to hate broccoli can be advantageous for survival.
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