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Hate cilantro? Blame your ancestry

Tim Nelson
June 22, 2018

Cilantro: people either seem to love or loathe it. Some appreciate the accent this herb lends to Mexican dishes, believing it can zest up even the blandest meal. Others run for the hills, swearing that the soapy taste of the coriander plant shouldn’t be anywhere near their food. Science has known for a little while that our preferences on the subject have something to do with genetics, and now you can have irrefutable proof of your allegiance or aversion to cilantro.

That’s because an update to popular DNA testing service 23AndMe includes a new test that can determine whether or not your taste for cilantro has to do with your genes. According to Women’s Health, those who sign up for the services’ “Health + Ancestry” package can learn about things like their natural wake time, their sensitivity to sound, and whether or not chopped cilantro will singlehandedly ruin your next taco order.

So what does cilantro have to do with our genetics anyway? It seems to have something to do with where your ancestors called home. A 23AndMe study from 2012 found a certain correlation between the negative perception of cilantro’s taste and one’s ethnocultural heritage, with Ashkenazi jews, northern Europeans and southern Europeans most likely to describe cilantro’s taste as soapy.

A closer study of the subject at Cornell University traced the cilantro love and hate to something called “OR6A2,” an olfactory receptor gene with “a high binding specificity for several of the aldehydes that give cilantro its characteristic odor.” In essence, whether that particular gene is dominant or recessive affects how cilantro tastes.

This sort of information isn’t as revealing as some of the other things you can learn about yourself from a comprehensive genetic test. But at least the next time someone tries to force cilantro onto your plate, you can tell them that your picky eating has been genetically predetermined and scientifically verified.  

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