Hurts So Good: People Who Perceive More Caffeine Bitterness Drink More Coffee

Modesto Morganelli
Novembre 18, 2018

As caffeine contributes to not only the bitterness of coffee but also its perceived strength and texture, people who are better at detecting caffeine may find coffee more enjoyable and flavourful. This sensitivity is not only limited to taste but preferably is affected by an individual's inherited make up.

'You'd expect that people who are particularly sensitive to the bitter taste of caffeine would drink less coffee, ' said senior author Marilyn Cornelis.

However, explains Dr Liang-Dar Hwang, if someone is born with a preference for coffee or a bitter aversion to alcohol, they can still learn to like certain tastes by being repeatedly exposed to it. And that's somewhat surprising, because our ability to taste bitterness evolved as a defense mechanism, warning us to spit out substances that could be toxic.

Genetic samples compared with the frequency of consumption of coffee, tea and alcohol in volunteers.

Both coffee and tea (at least some types of tea) contain bitter-tasting caffeine, but coffee contains another bitter molecule: quinine, commonly found in tonic water. The degree of bitterness of these depends on the genes.

We knew from previous research that inherited factors play a role in the amount of coffee and tea a person drinks a day, and that the ability to digest caffeine plays an important role in the people's consumption of caffeinated beverages.

Sonia is a postgraduate of Mass Communication but her interest lies in writing. Even more so than coffee, these PROP- and quinine-sensitive people were much less likely to consume red wine than those less attune to those flavors. Different bitter molecules are linked to different taste receptor genes, and Cornelis and colleagues at the University of Queensland in Australia wanted to study the connection between these taste genes and coffee consumption.

Yet, we voluntarily consume a range of bitter substances from caffeinated beverages to alcohol.

In the study on more than 400,000 men and women in the United Kingdom, researchers also found that people sensitive to the bitter flavours of quinine and a taste related to vegetable compounds were more likely to eschew coffee in favour of its sweeter counterpart, tea. But that could just be because they were too busy drinking coffee, Cornelis noted.

The opposite was observed for tea - those who were sensitive to caffeine drank less tea. Even if as a child or right now you dislike the bitterness of coffee or tea, you may have noticed that your taste and dietary behaviour change over time as you grow.

Ong added the findings for tea might be down to tea containing lower concentrations of bitter substances, meaning it might prove more acceptable than coffee to those with heightened perception of bitterness. Read the original article.

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