Genes determine odor sensitivity, NZ study shows -

Genes determine odor sensitivity, NZ study shows

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Genes determine odor sensitivity, NZ study shows

Researchers at New Zealand's Plant & Food Research have found a link between genetics and sensitivity to certain odors, in a study that was published in journal Current Biology. smell

Scientist Jeremy McRae told that genetic differences were behind sensitivity to four out of 10 different odors tested in a sample of 200 people.

"At this point it is still mostly preliminary but it raises the possibility that odors in food can be genetically determined, and it's possible that people experience food in slightly different ways," he said.

"However, just because a person is sensitive to an odor it doesn't necessarily determine a liking or disliking of odor. It is specific to the context."

The four compounds that proved gene sensitive were isobutyraldehyde (malt), β-damascenone (apple), 2-heptanone (blue cheese) and β-ionone (violet flowers), while those that showed no correlation include cineole (Eucalyptus), hexanol (cut grass), vanillin (vanilla).

"For quite some time it's been known anecdotally that people have sensitivity to certain smells, so we wanted to examine this with a wide variety of odors.

"If this extends to other odours then we might expect everyone to have their own unique set of smells that they are sensitive to. These smells are found in foods and drinks that people encounter every day, such as tomatoes and apples," he said in a release.

"This might mean that when people sit down to eat a meal, they each experience it in their own personalised way."

The researchers were able to identify the exact change in the DNA sequence for the compound β-ionone, which is associated with violets and present in foods such as tomatoes, oranges and Pinot noir wine. Those with DNA that is sensitive to the odor describe it as a floral note, while others detect a pungent or sour odor.

"Knowing the compounds that people can sense in foods, as well as soaps, detergents and other goods, will have an influence on the development of future products," Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Richard Newcomb said in a release.

"Companies may wish to design foods that better target people based on their sensitivity, essentially developing foods and other products personalised for their taste and smell."

McRae told the sample group included people of Caucasian and Asian descent, and that neither group was more or less sensitive to smells than the other.

Photo: Fotolia, Olly


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