Why kids turn their noses on broccoli and Brussels sprouts may be due to bacteria in their mouths, a new study finds.
Rather than just being picky eaters, research indicates there might be a scientific reason why young people and adults dislike a group of vegetables known as brassica vegetables, which also include cabbage. -flower, kale and cabbage.
The enzymes in these vegetables and bacteria found in saliva can produce unpleasant odors in the mouth.
But while children often refuse vegetables, it seems adults can learn to tolerate odors over time.
Damian Frank and his colleagues conducted the research at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.
Write in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the researchers found that parents and their children have similar levels of odor, suggesting they share the same type of microbiome – bacteria – in the mouth.
They also found that high levels make children dislike vegetables.
“Interactions between vegetables of the genus Brassica and human saliva can affect the development of odors in the mouth, which in turn can be related to individual perception and taste,” they said.
“It’s an intriguing finding that there was a significant relationship between the adult / child pairs.
“Other research groups have found significant relationships between the salivary microbiome of parents and children, especially mothers and children.”
According to scientists, vegetables of the genus brassica contain a compound called S-methyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide which produces potent sulphurous odors when activated by an enzyme in the plant.
This is also the case for the same enzyme produced by bacteria in the oral bacteria of some people.
While previous studies have shown that adults have varying levels of this enzyme in their saliva, it was not known whether this was true for children and whether it influences their food preferences.
In the study, researchers identified the main compounds in raw and steamed cauliflower and broccoli that produce the scent.
They then asked 98 pairs of children and parents, with children between the ages of six and eight, to rate the main olfactory compounds.
Children and adults alike least liked dimethyl trisulfide, which smells of rotten, sulfur, and putrid.
The team then mixed saliva samples with raw cauliflower powder and analyzed the types of compounds produced over time.
They found large differences between individuals, but that children generally had similar levels to their parents, which the researchers said was likely due to similar microbiomes.
Children whose saliva produced large amounts of sulfur compounds disliked raw vegetables of the genus Brassica the most, but this relationship was not seen in adults, who may learn to tolerate the flavor, according to the study. over time.
The findings provide a potential new explanation why some people like vegetables and others, especially children, don’t like them, the researchers say.