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NewsBites November 2012 Issue

Cilantro Aversion Is Genetic

Can’t stand the taste of cilantro, that increasingly popular herb found in Asian and Mexican cuisine? Blame your genes. Scientists have long suspected that thinking cilantro tastes like soap might be inherited. Now a study of nearly 30,000 people by the consumer genetics firm 23andMe has identified specific gene variants linked to a dislike of cilantro. The most important are among those controlling the sense of smell, especially a gene labeled OR6A2. That encodes an olfactory receptor that increases sensitivity to the aldehyde compounds (organic chemicals formed by the oxidation of alcohols) that give cilantro its distinctive taste. If you’re genetically predisposed to loathe cilantro, you’re not alone: 17% of European peoples, 14% of those of African descent and, surprisingly, 21% of east Asians hate the herb, too—as did culinary maven Julia Child.

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