Is there a gene for liking marmite?

15 July 2012

Question

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?

Regards,

Andrew
Stapleford, Cambridge.

Answer

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, it's sitting somewhere on chromosome 7. It's 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. It's got that bitterness element in it.

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