It turns our that our drink preferences are linked to the psychoactive effects of the drink rather than the taste of the drink itself. At least this is what studies carried out by American geneticists have observed when it comes to drinks like beer, wine and coffee.
Psychoactive effects more than the taste!
A team of researchers from Northwestern University in the United States has tried to identify genes that play a role in our preference of drinks. Although flavour genes were logically targeted first, researchers have made a surprising discovery. The study, published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics (2nd May 2019), has allowed geneticists to confirm that genes linked to the psychoactive effects of drinks themselves are also at play.
Marilyn Cornelis, Assistant Professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine explained in a statement, “The genetics underlying our preferences are related to the psychoactive components of these drinks”. She continued, “People like the way coffee and alcohol make them feel. That’s why they drink it. It’s not the taste.”
Around 336, 000 genetic profiles of European origin were closely examined as part of the study. This data, obtained through the UK database Biobank, also allowed researchers to contact volunteers to ask them to fill in a questionnaire. Volunteers had to provide, in detail, information about their consumption of these drinks, whether they liked it bitter or sweet and how often the ydrunk these drinks in a day.
An acquired taste
After having collecting data, geneticists tried to find links between people’s genome and their consumption of these drinks. Marilyn Cornelis believes that, although flavour is of course a factor, beer and coffee have more of an “acquired taste”. A drink like coffee should logically be avoided due to it’s bitter taste. However we still like to drink it. Why is this the case?
Researchers believe we have learned to confuse its flavour with the psychoactive effect released by the caffeine. However, researchers admit that they haven’t considered the possible additions of sugar and milk in coffee. When it comes to alcohol the same logic applied, people often look for the effects of alcohol itself rather than the taste itself.
These findings are interesting as it could help to predict some harmful behaviours like alcoholism and dependencies on sugary or caffeinated drinks. Remember, all the same, that sugary drinks increase the chances of health problems like diabetes and obesity. Alcoholism also amounts to about 6% of deaths worldwide.