Science 2 min read

Researchers Reveal Why We Love Coffee and Beer

Black Salmon /

Black Salmon /

Marilyn Cornelis, a Northwestern University researcher, wanted a more efficient way to intervene in people’s diet. So, she studied the variations in taste genes to better understand why we show a better liking towards one beverage than another.

To Cornelis’ astonishment, her study revealed that our preference for bitter or sweet beverages has nothing to do with variations in our taste genes. Instead, she discovered the link between the individual taste preference and the genes related to the psychoactive properties of these beverages.

Cornelis, as an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: 

“The genetics underlying our preferences are related to the psychoactive components of these drinks. People like the way coffee and alcohol make them feel. That’s why they drink it. It’s not the taste.”

How The Study Worked

The researchers categorized beverages into a sweet-tasting group and bitter-tasting group.

In the bitter category, we have tea, beer, coffee, grapefruit juice, liquor, and red wine. Sweet, on the other hand, contained sugar-sweetened beverages, non-grapefruit juices, and artificially sweetened beverages.

The researchers validated the taste classification before-hand and collected the respondents’ beverage intake using questionnaires and 24-hour dietary recalls.

Aside from counting the number of servings of beverages – bitter and sweet – consumed by over 336,000 people in the UK Biobank, the researchers also performed a genome-wide association study to record the amounts of sour as well as sugary beverage consumption.

Now, they hope to replicate their key findings in the United States.

Result of the Findings

Cornelis believes that the study not only highlights the importance of behavior-reward component to beverage choice, but it also explains the relationship between genetics and beverage consumption. In addition, it spells out the potential barriers one could face when trying to intervene in people’s diet.

While the researcher did not find a link between our taste preference and taste genes, she found one variant in an FTO gene, linked with sugar-sweetened drinks. According to Cornelis, people with this variant preferred sugar-sweetened beverages.

She noted that:

“FTO has been something of a mystery gene, and we don’t know exactly how it’s linked to obesity. It likely plays a role in behavior, which would be linked to weight management.”

Read More: New Study: You Can Smell Food With Your Tongue

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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