For many people, the smell of fish is rather strong and unpleasant. But some people carry a mutation in a particular gene that makes that fish odor less intense, reports a paper publishing October 8 in the journal Current Biology. The study, which is the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) of olfactory genes in humans involving a sniff test and looked at over 9,000 people from Iceland, also shows that people vary in their ability to discern the smell of licorice and cinnamon.
“We discovered sequence variants that influence how we perceive and describe fish, licorice, and cinnamon odors,” said Rosa Gisladottir of deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, Iceland. “Since our sense of smell is very important for the perception of flavor, these variants likely influence whether we like food containing these odors.”
Researchers have known that people perceive odors based on olfactory receptors encoded by 855 olfactory genes. But