Science Questions

Is there a gene for liking marmite?

Sun, 15th Jul 2012

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Andrew Steer asked:

Hi Chris,


I was just idly thinking out loud at work the other day, when I asked...


"...whether there's a gene which codes whether an individual loves or hates Marmite..." "...and if so, if it might also be a marker for something else useful in medicine."


Do you know the answer? Does anyone know the answer?





Stapleford, Cambridge.


Diana -  I'm going to say that I'm ambivalent towards marmite in small quantities.  Actually, there is a gene which determines how sensitive people are to compounds called phenylthiocarbamide and propil thiouracil.  You find these bitter compounds in things like cabbage and grape seed.  Now some people are very sensitive to these bitter compounds and some can't taste them at all and this is genetically determined.  Apparently, itís sitting somewhere on chromosome 7.  Itís thought that maybe the people who can't take these PTC- like compounds are very sensitive to bitter things like grapefruit, tea, coffee, as well as cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables.  So, it may be that Marmite is related.  Itís got that bitterness element in it.


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I wouldn't have thought that genetics has any influence over likes and dislikes of any sort, even taste. I think it probable that you could find identcal twins where one likes and the other dislikes Marmite. Don_1, Mon, 16th Jul 2012

It is entirely possible. Here is quite an interesting chemical that exhibits an interesting property: (apologies for the ugly link). Some people don't notice this, whilst other people can become almost sick because of the taste.

Off-hand, I don't know if there's a gene for liking marmite. But, bearing this chemical in mind, and knowing that genetics is involved in being able to taste it, then I really don't see why not. schneebfloob, Mon, 16th Jul 2012

There seems to be a gene for liking cilantro. I don't seem to have it. Geezer, Mon, 16th Jul 2012

A gene may make an individual more or less sensative to something, but does it determine like or dislike? Don_1, Tue, 17th Jul 2012

Whether or not you like something surely must depend on how it tastes to you. Since the genetic makeup of an individual may make them more or less sensitive to a particular compound in some foodstuff (i.e. affects how it tastes to that individual), then surely isn't that at least contributing to whether or not they like it?

To what degree genes determine taste I am uncertain. It is known that the ability to smell plays a huge role in taste, and I seem to think I was reading somewhere recently about a lady who lost her sense of smell, and with it her ability to taste food. The sense of smell involves chemo-receptors in the nose, and genetics could potentially play a huge role in taste on this basis. schneebfloob, Tue, 17th Jul 2012

I don't just like Marmite ... I absolutely LOVE it. As I savour it, I do wonder how on earth people can actually HATE it?! So I wouldn't be surprised at all if there was a genetic basis ... Kevin, Thu, 8th Nov 2012

Okay, here's my theory: some people have a gene that makes Marmite taste as horrid as it looks. Whether those without the gene love it (like me) or are ambivalent (like a previous commenter) might have more to do with how early in life it was introduced to them, what warm fuzzy associations they have from childhood, etc. Kevin, Thu, 8th Nov 2012

I doubt it is the same gene as propylthiouracil. PTU tastes disgusting to me, marmite is lovely to me, but I suspect it is genetic. Simon, Tue, 17th Feb 2015

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