Taste Gene Found That May Predict Smoking Habits, NIH Says
WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Whether a person becomes a smoker or doesn't eat enough nutritious food may be the work of one tiny gene that scientists just identified on the cells of the tongue.
The inherited gene determines whether people will be disgusted by or not fazed at all by bitter tastes like nicotine.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health working with scientists at the University of Utah and Stanford University found the gene and wrote about it in an article to appear in Friday's issue of the journal "Science."
"This research promises to open a pathway to better understanding about what drives certain human behaviors including those associated with smoking and eating," said Dr. James F. Battey, director of NIH's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
The identification of the bitter-taste gene follows earlier studies that found 30% of the U.S. population isn't sensitive to bitterness. Other studies found that this sensitivity contributes to what people eat and whether they smoke over a long-term period.
Extensive research on taste found that people around the world who aren't sensitive to bitterness descended from a common African ancestor, the NIH press release said.