Epigenetics & Taste

Science At Home People and Place

I wonder how my environment and upbringing influences my taste in food…

Our DNA influences so much of who we are and how our bodies operate. How does our DNA impact our taste buds? What about other factors in our world? Let’s do some thinking about how our genes might influence how we taste food, what foods or flavors we enjoy, and how we can use a recipe to think about epigenetics.

Let’s Think…

What kinds of foods do you remember eating often when you were growing up?

Do you prefer sweet foods or savory foods?

Are there certain foods that hold specific memories for you?

Can you think of any foods that you LOVE and someone else really doesn’t?

If we think of our DNA like a recipe…

… then epigenetics is like the edits that you might make to a recipe to make it just the way you like it.

Epigenetics is a newer area of scientific research that is studying how factors outside the body, like environmental factors, can influence the expression of people’s DNA. If we look at the word ‘epigenetics’ we can see that it includes the word ‘genetics.’ The first part, ‘epi-‘ means “on top of” or “in addition to” which means that this area of study is looking at things that can affect DNA outside just the code itself.

As each person grows up and exists in the world, different experiences will create genetic markers on their DNA. We can think of this like edits to a recipe. If you prefer not to eat meat, you’d remove any bacon from a recipe when you make it yourself. If you prefer things more sweet than savory, you might add a little more sugar than the recipe calls for.

What’s the Science?

The DNA that children inherit from their biological parents provides the full recipe and instruction for their development like how tall they will be or the color of their hair. When experiences add and rearrange genetic markers, they change how the DNA is read and replicated – like highlighting a section to make it easier to find or making the font reeeeally tiny so it’s a lot harder to read.

Because epigenetics is a growing field of science, there’s still a lot to learn about how it affects our bodies and how they work. It’s possible that our environment and experiences influence our epigenetics and our taste buds.

More Ideas

Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook

Shannon and Alexe used the cornbread recipe from this book as the starting place for the cornbread they made in the video. Check out this article and consider looking for the cookbook at your local library!

TED-Ed: What is Epigenetics

If you want a more in depth explanation of epigenetics, check out this Ted-Ed talk.

Explore All!

Check out OMSI’s Science at Home videos and experiments.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This project is made possible by a grant from the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation.