Do We Smell the Same Thing?
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Do We Smell the Same Thing?So you know how some people can’t say no to pizza and others will pay top dollar for sushi? I happen to like both, but some people don’t. We each possess unique food preferences due largely to our sense of smell, which is defined by our genes.

Scientists have been sorting out just which genes are responsible, and up until recently, only several had been identified. For example, our perception of the herb cilantro is picked up by one olfactory receptor while grassy odors are linked to another. Now we’re also learning that each of us experiences the same odor differently due to genetic variances.

Scientists tested nearly two hundred people for how well they identify ten different chemicals. Then each person’s genome was sequenced so that scientists could later track genetic variants that influenced how people reacted to specific odors. After analyzing the results, researchers linked clusters of genes for four of the ten chemicals.

These chemicals are associated with odors found in apples, blue cheese and violets. So, take one chemical, beta ionine, which is behind a violet’s fragrance. People with two insensitive gene variants for beta ionine either couldn’t detect the floral note or found it pungent.

It tells us people can have vastly different appreciations for the same meal. One day imagine carrying an olfactory profile to dine at a restaurant whose chefs then prepare a meal to your exact preferences.

For more information…

Sense for scents traced down to genes
Nature News article by Josh Howgego on this work on genetic factors and how this can lead to personalized scents and flavors.

Genetics can determine why we smell certain odors differently, studies find
"The next time you argue with a friend about the whiff of cilantro in your stir-fry that he finds disgusting, blame his genes."

Sense of Smell Determined by Genes, Study Says
"Ability to detect certain scents is highly individual, research suggests"