coriander

Are we picky eaters or is it genetics?

**Warning… the following blog post gets super geeky with food science and biology**

Now THIS is fascinating (in my eyes). It’s far too easy to forget how incredible and complex the human body actually is… 

For example, I’m off on my hols in a month’s time (which yes, does probably mean I won’t stop banging on about the delicious delicacies I discover there) but the reason I mention this is that last week I went to get my vaccinations. It’s impressive to think that for a while my body was fighting off 5 diseases that it thought I had by producing specific antibodies to fight the bad stuff… all in preparation for if I fall victim to the real thing whilst away. Super clever and intelligent biology!

Similarly, but on a far lesser scale (not convinced the food examples that follow will ever result in life or death) our bodies do react to certain foods differently… and not just from food to food, but from person to person.

Asparagus 

How many of you have really smelly wee after eating asparagus? It can be almost instantaneous. After eating a few spears of asparagus the aroma given off from your pee is really quite potent. It certainly affects me… but incredibly it doesn’t have the same impact on everybody. 

The odour is down to an acid given off when asparagus is digested. It’s called asparagusic acid and, well the clue is in the name, but it’s pretty exclusive to asparagus… one of the only foods that contain the acid. As your body attacks the food stuff to get the good bits out it also leaves behind some pretty nasty smelling sulphurs which get into your pee pretty damn quick… sometimes as quickly as 15 minutes after eating the veg.

It’s been known for centuries, in fact a guy in the 1700’s said that asparagus transformed his ‘chamber-pot into a flask of perfume’. But only recently have we discovered why the smell is caused and, more importantly, why about 30% of people don’t seem to be affected. In reality…. their urine smells just the same but that 30% or so of people have a genetic mutation which results in a difference on the coding of the olfactory receptors. Again this sounds very technical but it basically alters your sense of taste and smell. So at the end of the day, it smells the same, they just don’t have the ability to smell it… lucky them! 

Coriander leaf / Cilantro

You either love it or hate it! And apparently, according to research undertaken by a consumer genetics company, it’s only 10% of humans who have a severe distaste for it. For some people it can be as extreme as to revoke a nasty reaction and bout of illness. It turns out that the reason for this is that some of us suffer a ‘genetic variant buried inside a cluster of smell-influencing genes’. In a nutshell, this variant can seriously enhance the smell of it to become something unbearable. 

For the most part (90% of the population), people can’t get their heads around what’s so bad about the beautifully fragrant herb that adds value to curries, tacos, burritos, guac, pho or stir-frys. It’s the blindness to this that angers those who suffer… so much so… they have set up their own Facebook group!

So there we go… do you fall in the coriander haters and smelly urinators or not?

Food, cooking and taste is all so subjective and personal. Our experience of it differs from person to person… but that’s not to say you can’t share your experiences with others for them to make up their mind. That’s all we encourage… dish out your food ideas, interactions and opinions and see what others make of it!