Genetics may program you to dislike beer

Posted on OCT 03, 2019

A combination of learned behavior, DNA and human instinct determine whether you like or hate beer.

Even occasional beer drinkers have probably noticed the rise in popularity of India pale ales. Your feelings about this type of beer have origins beyond your control.

Your reaction to hoppy beers is because of your genes. You are born with an instinctive reaction of disgust to anything that tastes bitter.
Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers and a primal aversion to bitterness helped them circumvent poisonous plants. However, this protection is irrelevant now.

According to John Hayes, director of the Sensory Evaluation Center at Pennsylvania State University, many toxic things are not bitter, and many bitter things are not toxic. In addition, we have regulators like the Food and Drug Administration to inform us which foods and drinks are safe to consume.

Humans have 25,000 genes that determine how our bodies function, of those 25,000 (15 hypothesized) 40 affect bitterness. The TAS2R38 gene epitomizes the bitterness group.

Researchers discovered TAS2R38 correlates with alcohol intake, however the hops in beer activate a different set: TAS2R1, 14 and 40. These genes make a protein that stays on your taste buds and acts as a receptor.

The molecules from food sit atop this receptor and send signals to your brain. Some people have differences in these genes, which are made of nucleotides.

If these nucleotides are in a different order for a particular codon, it alters how that gene acts. A different order for a tasting receptor gene changes the receptors shape. This stops the taste detection signal from traveling to the brain