ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Vegetarians and vegans – this one may be for the meat-eaters.

It's for the people who simply can’t stomach the thought of chowing down on some fresh and healthy vegetables.

It turns out that’s a preference that may run a lot deeper than casual dislike. According to the results of a new study, our genetic code has a powerful influence over how we perceive ‘bitter’ flavors.

And guess what green vegetables fall into the ‘bitter’ category on a flavor chart?

Well – a lot of them.

This weekend, scientists are presenting their not-so-tasty findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia. Researchers took DNA samples from 175 people – more than 70 percent female with an average age of 52 – and asked them to fill out a ‘food frequency questionnaire’. They found that people with a very specific genetic makeup ate the least amount of vegetables.

“Your genetics affect the way you taste, and taste is an important factor in food choice,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Smith. She’s a postdoctoral fellow in cardiovascular science at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine – and she wrote the study.

Jennifer L. Smith, Ph.D., R.N.
Jennifer L. Smith, Ph.D., R.N.
American Heart Association

Smith explains that every person inherits two copies of a ‘taste gene’ called TAS2R38.

People with two copies of the ‘AVI’ variant are not sensitive to bitter tastes from certain chemicals.

People with one AVI and one ‘PAV’ variant think those same chemicals taste bitter.

People with two PAVs are hypersensitive to them – and the flavor is exceptionally bitter.

“We’re talking a ruin-your-day level of bitter when they tasted the test compound,” said Smith.

While this may be a great excuse at a dinner party or over the holidays, there is one important side note. People who find broccoli and Brussels sprouts to be completely untouchable may also be turned off by coffee, chocolate and beer.

That’s rough.

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