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Hating vegetables could be in your genes

Do you hate vegetables? It could be in your genes [Photo: Getty]

The thought of eating broccoli, spinach or kale may be enough to turn your stomach.

While some may accuse you of being a picky eater, research suggests your genes could be to blame.

Scientists from the University of Kentucky genetically mapped 175 volunteers.

They found those with a variant of the gene TAS2R38 struggle to swallow leafy green vegetables.

The scientists describe the taste as a “ruin-your-day level of bitterness”, with the gene even making beer, coffee and chocolate unpleasant.

READ MORE: Here Are 16 Veggie-Filled Snacks Dietitians Love

The UK government recommends we eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Despite the benefits of fresh produce, around a third of adults fail to hit the target, British Dietetic Association statistics show.

In the US, adults are advised to eat between 1.5 and two cups of fruit a day, and two-to-three cups of vegetables.

However, only 12.2% and 9.3% of adults hit the fruit and vegetable target respectively, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It may seem like fussy eating, but hating veggies could be in your DNA.

Everyone inherits two copies of TAS2R38, which is expressed in our taste buds.

Some of us have two copies of a TAS2R38 variant called AVI, which does not make us overly sensitive to the bitter taste of chemicals within green leafy vegetables.

Those with one copy of AVI and another of the variant PAV taste bitterness to some extent.

READ MORE: Describing vegetables as ‘glazed’ or ‘sizzling’ makes them more appealing

People who have two copies of PAV, “super tasters”, often find these foods unbearably bitter.

“We're talking a ruin-your-day level of bitter”, lead author Dr Jennifer Smith said.

“These people are likely to find broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage unpleasantly bitter.

“And they may also react negatively to dark chocolate, coffee and sometimes beer.”

After having their genes mapped, the volunteers completed a food questionnaire.

Results, presented at an American Heart Association session, show those with two copies of PAV were 2.5 times more likely to score low on the number of vegetables eaten.

READ MORE: 5 Vegetable Foods That Make You Fat

Surprisingly, the super tasters did not compensate for the bitterness by loading up on unhealthy ingredients.

“We thought they might take in more sugar and salt as flavour enhancers to offset the bitter taste of other foods, but that wasn’t the case,” Dr Smith said.

The scientists hope better understanding how certain foods taste to different people will help doctors encourage patients to get their five-a-day.

They are looking into whether spices could mask the bitter taste of some greens, making them more appetising.