By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Over Christmas dinner, there might have been one dish you couldn’t stand — but others may be going back to it for seconds.

That has Dave from Mound wanting to know: Why do we taste things differently? Good Question.

“There’s different reasons for it, but the most important by far is what you grow up with,” says Gary Reineccius, a flavor chemist at the University of Minnesota.

Reineccius says his Swedish-Norwegian family grew up loving pickled pig’s feet, but his wife from California can’t stand it.

“In some cases, it’s they were never exposed to it, it’s a foreign flavor to them,” he says. “They really aren’t interested, it doesn’t fit in their history, their background.”

Genes also play a big roles. A large amount of genetic code is devoted to flavor.

“Genes dictate what taste buds are there and how sensitive they are,” he says.

Human taste buds can detect five different tastes – sour, bitter, sweet, salty and umami, which is Japanese for pleasant, savory taste. People can also be supertasters for one specific taste. For example, if someone is a bitter supertaster, their genetic background makes their taste buds more sensitive to bitter.

People might also not like a food because they associate it with a bad experience, like getting sick.

Reineccius says it’s hard to teach someone to like something when they don’t, but that our taste buds will change over time.

“Your sensing mechanisms change. It truly does taste different to children than it does to adults,” he says. “They’re hyper-sensitive to things. When they don’t like it, they don’t like it.”

Heather Brown

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