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Complex relationship between TAS2 receptor variations, bitterness perception, and alcohol consumption observed in a population of wine consumers

Fu, Denggang, Riordan, Sara, Kieran, Shannon, Andrews, Ron A., Ring, Huijun Z., Ring, Brian Z.
Food & function 2019 v.10 no.3 pp. 1643-1652
alcohol drinking, alleles, bitter-tasting compounds, bitterness, broccoli, food choices, genetic variation, surveys, taste, wines
Our ability to taste bitterness affects our food choices and alcohol consumption. Alleles in the taste 2 receptor member TAS2R38 have been linked to the ability to perceive bitterness in bitter-tasting compounds and in many foods, and people with these bitterness sensitivity alleles have been shown to be less likely to consume alcohol, presumably because of alcohol's bitter taste. In a survey of 519 participants, almost all of whom regularly consumed alcohol, we observed that genetic variants in TAS2R38 were significantly associated with both increased alcohol consumption and the ability to perceive bitterness in several foods and a bitter chemical. In total, we assayed 39 variants in 25 genes that have been implicated in the genetics of taste perception, and no other variants predicted alcohol consumption. Perception of bitterness in broccoli and a preference for black coffee were also positively associated with alcohol consumption. As the consumption of alcohol is a social activity there may be incentive to appreciate its bitter aspects, and increased perception of bitterness could therefore be associated with consumption of some bitter beverages. As this study's respondents were predominantly frequent consumers of alcohol, these findings may be consistent with previous studies that have seen that increased experience in the consumption of wine is associated with an increased perception of PROP bitterness. Further work elucidating the complex relationship between the genetics of bitter perception and alcohol consumption will better describe these connections.