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Bitter taste perception in BaYaka hunter-gatherers

Keestra, Sarai; Miabangana, Edmond Sylvestre; Chaudhary, Nikhil; Derkx, Inez; Sikka, Gaurav; Salali, Gul Deniz; (2021) Bitter taste perception in BaYaka hunter-gatherers. bioRXiv: Cold Spring Harbor, NY, USA. Green open access

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Aversion towards bitter tastes evolved across vertebrate species to enable the recognition of harmful plant toxins. Most studies to date have investigated the variation in bitter taste sensitivity between human populations. However, there is a lack of research investigating phenotypic plasticity and the variation in bitter taste perception within the same population. Here we examined bitter taste perception among the Mbendjele BaYaka hunter-gatherers from Congo, a group of forest hunter-gatherers who exhibit a variation in their levels of market integration. We conducted an experiment using phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) and thiourea infused paper strips and compared the prevalence of bitter tasting phenotypes between the BaYaka who grew up in town and forest camps. We found that 45.1% of BaYaka experience PTC as bitter, and 42.5% experience thiourea as bitter. There were no sex and age differences in bitter taste perception. Despite a shared genetic background, we found that BaYaka who grew up in town were more sensitive to bitter taste than those living in the forest, suggesting a developmental component in taste perception. We suggest that a decreased use of traditional plant medicine in town-born BaYaka may underlie this variation in bitter taste perception.

Type: Working / discussion paper
Title: Bitter taste perception in BaYaka hunter-gatherers
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.25.469973
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.11.25.469973
Language: English
Additional information: The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. It is made available under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 International license.
Keywords: traditional medicine; plant ecology; dietary transition; PTC; thiourea; hunter-gatherers; bitter taste
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10160623
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