At the peak of Beer and Coffee snobbery, a new genome-wide association study of bitter and sweet beverage consumption, conducted by researchers at Northwestern University, claims the following: “People like the way coffee and alcohol make them feel. That’s why they drink it. It’s not the taste.” This quote was delivered from Marilyn Cornelis, one of the experts that helped author the novel report which appeared in the journal Human Molecular Genetics last Thursday.
The data proved that our preferences are genetically engineered to privilege psychoactive features. Assigning participants to two groups: the bitter tasting group (composed of coffee, tea, grapefruit juice, beer, red wine, and liquor) and the sweet tasting group (composed of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and a variety of non-grapefruit juices.)
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A genetic understanding of our diets
When the study participant pool of about 336,000 individuals was questioned about the beverages they consumed in the last 24 hours, the consensus intimated that mental reward or buzz principally informed their evaluations.
For coffee, the majority of respondents said they craved it in the morning because of the “euphoric feeling,” they felt when they drank it. For beer, respondents occasioned its “calming effect.”
This is important in a larger sense because this study is actually the very first to identify components other than taste genes, that influence human preferences in beverages.
The researchers hope a better understanding of what motivates us towards unhealthy food options, can dually help medical professionals encourage genetically inspired barriers to promote balanced diets. Unfortunately, some of the data mentioned in the new study goes against independent research conducted in the past.
For instance, the ever elusive gene variant, known as FTO, has been linked to lower instances of obesity. However, in the Northwestern University report, individuals with this very same gene variant consistently preferred sugar-sweetened beverages.
“It’s counterintuitive,” Cornelis told NBC news. “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.”
A promising start, though additional research needs to be done before any sort of categorical applications to nutritional health can be established.
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