Why do kids turn up their noses at broccoli but beg for ice cream? It may be genetic. A study done by researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia shows that a gene called TAS2R38 may be responsible for children’s aversion to bitter tastes. Every one of us carries two of these genes. There are two different versions of this gene, with one being more sensitive to bitter tastes than the other. If one or both of those bitter-sensitive genes are present, we are more likely to dislike bitter tastes.
The study included 143 children and their mothers, and over 79% of the children had one or two copies of the bitter-sensitive gene present. Interestingly, the presence of the bitter-sensitive gene made a bigger impact on the children’s food preferences than their mothers. The mothers tastes seemed to be influenced more by race and ethnicity than the children. In a sense, they grew out of their aversion to bitter foods.
If this study holds true, then about 80% of children aren’t going to be thrilled about eating broccoli and cauliflower. It may be difficult to convince your children to eat more vegetables if they are over-sensitive to bitter flavors.
You don’t need to look longingly at those 20% of youngsters that do like vegetables while cringing at your own bitter-sensitive kids’ reaction. You can disguise the bitter taste, or choose sweeter vegetables. Over time, your children’s aversion to bitter tastes will ease.