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Genes, smell and taste

24 Jun, 2010

At the Molecular Sensing Laboratory at Plant and Food Research (Mt Albert), research is under way to determine if variation in odour receptor genes changes our sense of smell, taste and flavour.

Duration: 13:02

Have you ever wondered why different people prefer some foods to others or why an odour pleasant to one person is off putting to someone else? The answer could well be in the genes according to researchers Richard Newcombe and Jeremy McRae of the Molecular Sensing Lab at Plant and Food Research in Mt Albert (Auckland). Their 2 major research areas are whether there is a link between genotype and the ability to smell and whether a person’s DNA influences the food they like to eat.

Smell is a delicate sense affected by your age, mood, state of health and even time of day! Your sense of smell involves odorant receptors, and there’s variation within these allowing us to smell (or not) certain compounds. These genes also influence your food preferences.

If the connection between genes and smell is proven, future foods could be targeted at certain population groups based on this genetic information.

Programme details: Our Changing World


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