Some People are Genetically Predisposed to Dislike Broccoli

October 1, 2010 at 4:00 am 17 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

Broccoli and brussels sprouts are popular vegetables for kids to feed the dog under the table.

My brother and I had a really smart dog growing up, which must be why he didn’t like broccoli either. Although, he always liked to do what we did, so I don’t know if he actually disliked it or if he just liked to make the same face when he ate broccoli too. You know the face, when you squeeze your eyes shut and use your tongue to scrap any residual taste off the roof of your mouth.

Getting kids to eat their vegetables can be a tough task, but there are plenty of adults who don’t like vegetables either. So why do some people like vegetables such as broccoli and other people passionately dislike them?

There are many reasons why people dislike vegetables. My brother and I always said it was the texture, not the taste. But, it was the taste and it’s scientifically proven.

There is an organic compound called phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) that tastes very bitter. Well, it’s very bitter to some people, it’s tasteless to others.  About 70% of people have genetic traits that make them sensitive to the bitter taste of PTC, the rest of the population does not taste it.

While PTC itself is not found in food, there are a number of similar compounds which are. Many vegetables from the cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, horseradish, wasabi, mustard, brussels sprouts) contain these compounds.

Additionally, people who do not smoke and do not drink coffee or tea, taste PTC more than those who do consume coffee, tea and cigarettes. One big group of the population who doesn’t consume coffee, tea and cigarettes is children.

So, when you see kids who passionately dislike some vegetables, they may actually taste something that you do not.

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Photo: Jules: Stonesoup (cc)

Sources: Indiana Public Media, Science Daily, Wikipedia (Broccoli, Brassica, Brassicaceae, Cruciferous, Kale, Phenylthiocarbamide)

Entry filed under: Food and Drink. Tags: , , , , , .

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17 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cole  |  October 1, 2010 at 4:30 am

    This is the most interesting post you’ve put up yet, Chad. Seriously awesome!

  • 2. Anon  |  October 1, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Broccoli is a man-made vegetable, that was developed and engineered out of kale and didn’t occur in nature before human intervention. It is only a relatively new “invention”, so perhaps this also has something to do with it. (

    • 3. Chad Upton  |  October 1, 2010 at 11:43 am

      It’s funny, I was originally going to write this post on that topic, although it has been hard to find other sources that confirm the info in the link you posted (in fact, my first source is the same link). Some information indicates that broccoli has been around for 2000 years, so I’m still trying to get to the full story on broccoli.

    • 4. 9VoltChicken  |  July 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      the word engineered has the incorrect connotation of meaning created by directly altering DNA. this is incorrect since clearly we did not even know about cells OR DNA back in pre-roman empire Italy. it was CULTIVATED and species with traits we liked were selected and planted next season for centuries. like tiny wiener dogs or giant Saint Bernards they were bred – not created in a genetics lab ;)

  • 5. Lisa  |  October 1, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    I find that feeding broccoli to the dog can produce some unpleasant smelling side effects and therefore should be avoided at all costs.

    BTW – Trooper was a lovely dog. :)

    • 6. Chad Upton  |  October 3, 2010 at 6:35 pm

      haha! Thanks Lisa, ya Trooper was great! :) I hope all is well with you guys.

  • 7. Catalyst  |  October 1, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    How curious. I just posted this ( last night!

  • 8. Iris  |  October 2, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Very interesting! What about people who adamantly protest cilantro? Is there a compound that makes it taste bad to some, but not others?

    • 9. msyendor  |  November 16, 2010 at 1:03 pm

      see — I avidly hate the smell and taste of cilantro and I have friends who are allergic to the stuff as some people are to peanuts

  • 10. kun  |  October 8, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Now that I know that, I will give cofee and cigarettes to my 2 -year old daughter so she can start eating broccoli, lol. Nice post Chad!

  • 11. Lily  |  October 12, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Well, I know I can taste PTC very well. It’s horribly bitter. But I love broccoli; I love almost all vegetables, really. I also don’t drink much coffee or tea and don’t smoke.

    While it’s nice to use genetic predisposition as an excuse, I think people need to get over that and just eat your veggies. They won’t kill you, trust me.

    • 12. phlewte  |  October 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm

      wow. i think you need to get over yourself.

      i don’t think there’s a single rational human being out there that actually thinks eating vegetables that they don’t like the taste of is going to kill them.

      do you make a habit of eating things you absolutely cannot stand the taste of purely because they’re good for you?


      then i think you need to get over yourself.

  • 13. 9VoltChicken  |  July 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Even the common Red Delicious apple is a creation by selection and grafting over and over. go ahead try to plant a Yellow Delicious or Granny smith apple seed and see what kinda God awful crap apples u get from those seeds.7

  • 14. Carrots Do Not Improve Eyesight « Broken Secrets  |  October 17, 2011 at 2:01 am

    […] many kids, I didn’t like vegetables — especially carrots and broccoli. Adults frequently told me that carrots would improve my eyesight, so that seemed like a good […]

  • […] many kids, I didn’t like vegetables — especially carrots and broccoli. Adults frequently told me that carrots would improve my eyesight, so that seemed like a good […]

  • 16. Soul_Sister  |  July 28, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I do notice this-I don’t drink tea or coffee and I don’t smoke-ao vegetables like asparagus are bitter to me. But I eat it when it is cooked properly. Whatever you do, don’t eat canned asparagus-it is gross. I don’t touch broccoli but cauliflower is good when it is cooked.

    • 17. Soul_Sister  |  July 28, 2012 at 8:14 am

      I meant so. Not ao. Lol


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