Here's the scientific reason behind why some people hate coriander

Must See 15/11/2019

Whether you're a lover or a hater, coriander really is one of those foods that people feel very strongly about. But it turns out there is actually a scientific reason behind why some people despise the herb.

If you love coriander or are indifferent to it, you probably can't understand why on earth some of your friends and family insist it tastes like soap. But there is a huge population of people around the globe that can't stand it. 

Even the one and only Stephen Fry is one of the self-confessed coriander haters:

Apologies on behalf of this store for the strong language, but they clearly have some strong feelings towards the leafy herb. 

So what are the actual stats? According to a study conducted by a large genetic testing company, 26% of people with European ancestry disliked the herb, while only 12% of people with Asian ancestry did. According to another study, only 3% of Middle Eastern people disliked the herb. 

The reason behind the strong feelings towards coriander is apparently in our genetics. When comparing DNA of coriander haters to coriander lovers, researchers found a genetic variation thought to be associated with those who think it tastes like soap. 

"Cilantro’s aromatic qualities primarily depend on a group of compounds known as aldehydes. One type of aldehyde has been described as being ‘fruity’ and ‘green’ and another type as being ‘soapy’ and ‘pungent’," said the report, with cilantro being an alternative name for coriander. 

"One of the eight genes near the SNP we identified codes for a receptor called OR6A2, which is known to detect aldehydes such as those found in cilantro."

This receptor gene causes the olfactory substances in the plant to bind in a stronger manner to the receptors, and is more common in women and people of European descent. 

Professor Russell Keast, who specialises in sensory food science at Deakin University's School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, backs this claim up, putting our love/hate relationship with the herb down to our genetics.

The professor explained we have "smell receptors in our nose that are responsible for identifying volatile compounds in the atmosphere, including volatile compounds released from potential foods,"

It's these smell receptors which determine what we taste when we eat coriander. However, they are "highly variable" between people, so individual perceptions of the herb can differ greatly.