People taste and smell things very differently, which is why one person loves broccoli and another person can’t stand it. This means it may be impossible to convince your child to eat foods he hates. And our taste buds also reveal whether or not we’re alcoholics.

Our senses of smell and taste are controlled by 1,000 genes, over half of which are completely inactive. 50 of these 500 inactive genes are switched on in some people, but not in others, which may be why tastes differ. Every human has a different pattern of active and inactive odor-detecting receptors, depending on which genes are switched on and how sensitive we are to them, and people from different ethnic groups taste and smell things differently.

Ones scientists map these differences, manufacturers will create and market foods and fragrances to specific racial groups. When you start seeing TV ads for fast foods that feature only blacks, Hispanics or Asians, you’ll know that day has arrived.

One study of taste buds finds that people in families with a history of alcohol abuse taste things differently. When asked to taste salty and sour solutions, these people have a much stronger reaction, and they also have a bigger sweet tooth. This means that it may be possible to develop a taste test for alcoholism.

Dr. Alexei Kampov-Polevoy says, “Taste preference is an innate reaction that may be detected within minutes after birth. A taste test would allow us to evaluate a child’s risk of becoming an alcoholic long before he or she touches an alcoholic beverage.” This could help parents know if they need to watch their kids carefully for signs of alcohol abuse. On the other hand, it’s tough being labeled an alcoholic before you’ve ever taken a sip.

Why don’t doctors tell us these things?

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