Vegetable intake in college-aged adults is explained by oral sensory phenotypes and TAS2R38 genotype

Valerie B. Duffy, John E. Hayes, Andrew C. Davidson, Judith R. Kidd, Kenneth K. Kidd, Linda M. Bartoshuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Taste and oral sensations vary in humans. Some of this variation has a genetic basis, and two commonly measured phenotypes are the bitterness of propylthiouracil (PROP) and the number of fungiform papillae on the anterior tongue. While the genetic control of fungiform papilla is unclear, PROP bitterness associates with allelic variation in the taste receptor gene, TAS2R38. The two common alleles are AVI and PAV (proline, alanine, valine, and isoleucine); AVI/AVI homozygotes taste PROP as less bitter than heterozygous or homozygous PAV carriers. In this laboratory-based study, we determined whether taste of a bitter probe (quinine) and vegetable intake varied by taste phenotypes and TAS2R38 genotype in healthy adults (mean age∈=∈26 years). Vegetable intake was assessed via two validated, complementary methods: food records (Food Pyramid servings standardized to energy intake) and food frequency questionnaire (general intake question and composite vegetable groups). Quinine bitterness varied with phenotypes but not TAS2R38; quinine was more bitter to those who tasted PROP as more bitter or had more papillae. Nontasters by phenotype or genotype reported greater consumption of vegetables, regardless of type (i.e., the effect generalized to all vegetables and was not restricted to those typically thought of as being bitter). Furthermore, nontasters with more papillae reported greater vegetable consumption than nontasters with fewer papillae, suggesting that when bitterness does not predominate, more papillae enhance vegetable liking. These findings suggest that genetic variation in taste, measured by multiple phenotypes or TAS2R38 genotype, can explain differences in overall consumption of vegetables, and this was not restricted to vegetables that are predominantly bitter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-148
Number of pages12
JournalChemosensory Perception
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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