Tag Archives: what is genetic

5 Weird Things That Are Genetic

12 Jul photic sneeze reflex is genetic

photic sneeze reflex is genetic

  • Achoo syndrome is genetic.

The photic sneeze reflex is a genetic trait that causes people to sneeze when exposed to bright light. It is actually a dominant trait.

To test this genetic trait, go into a dark room (a bathroom with the lights out, a photo development room, a movie theater) and wait for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Then quickly exit the room and look at the a bright light, preferably the sun.  If you sneeze, then you are one of the 20-30% of the population afflicted with sun sneezing.  Most people with the photic sneeze reflex will sneeze 2-3 times when exposed to a bright light.

ACHOO comes from the acronym (or backronym): “Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst” – (ACHOO) syndrome.


  • Bitter tastes are genetic.

PTC taste is genetic

In 1931 a scientist names Aurthur Fox spilled a chemical powder called PTC next to his colleague.  The powder blew into the air and went into their mouths.  Dr. Fox tasted nothing but was surprised to find that his colleague complained of an extremely bitter taste.

They tested the chemical on more people and discovered that about 70% of people can taste PTC, and for the rest it is completely tasteless.  Genetic scientists discovered a genetic component for PTC taste receptors, and in 2003 they found the exact gene that codes for the taste receptor on our tongues.

There are about 30 genes that code for bitter taste receptors on the tongue.  These genes may determine whether or many vegetables, like broccoli, taste good to you or not.  Scientists think that the ability to taste bitter chemicals helped us survive in the wilderness by warning us when a plant might be poisonous.  No wonder some people hate veggies!  Their bodies think they might be poison!!!


  • Asparagus urine is genetic.

asparagus urine is genetic

When you eat asparagus, sulfur compounds in the vegetable quickly move into the urine.  As soon as 15-30 minutes after eating asparagus, many people report a strong odor in their urine.  As if we needed another reason not to want to eat asparagus.

When scientists studied the smell, they found that only some people could smell the odor, and not everyone’s urine smelled like sulfur.  Some people could smell it in their own urine and in others, while some people couldn’t smell it at all.

This lead geneticists to propose that there may be two separate genes at work – one that determines if your urine will smell bad after eating asparagus (a very important gene indeed), and one that determines if you can actually smell it.

It turns out that most people’s urine does smell bad when they eat asparagus, but only about 20% of people can actually smell it.


  • Cilantro tasting like soap is genetic.

cilantro (coriander) soap taste is genetic

Ever had someone slap you after they tried your new cilantro stuffed salsa?  Me neither, but apparently it’s a big problem.

It turns out that about 10-15% of the population has a set of genes that make cilantro taste like soap!  Cilantro has aldehyde chemicals in it that people are very sensitive to if they have a certain olfactory (smell) receptor gene.  The degree of soapiness can vary, but some people swear it tastes really really bad.

Also, the actual name for Cilantro is Coriander, which sounds much prettier but far less tasty.


  • Beeturia is genetic.

beeturia pink pee is genetic

(Don’t worry, that’s just beet juice in the picture above, I promise…)

When some people eat beets, their urine turns red, often totally freaking them out and causing many unnecessary visits to the doctor.

Turns out that there are red pigments in beets called betalain pigments that don’t always get broken down by the digestive system in certain people.  This condition actually has a name: beeturia (or betaninuria).

The inability to metabolize betalain pigments is genetic, but the intensity of the red urine varies greatly, and as such, the intensity is most likely determined by other factors.  It’s also a fantastic Halloween trick.


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