The way in which vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts interact with saliva could explain why some people can’t stomach them, researchers have said.

The study also looked at parent-child pairs and discovered that shared oral microbiomes could be the reason why a dislike of Brassica vegetables – which includes cauliflower and cabbage – may be passed down in families.

Enzymes from this family of vegetables and in bacteria in salvia can, in the mouth, create sulphurous odours. Levels were found to be similar in parent-child pairs and while high levels were associated with a dislike of the vegetables among children, this link was not seen in adults, with researchers saying adults may have learnt to tolerate the flavour.

The findings around in-mouth odour development could go some way to explain why some people don’t find Brassica vegetables appetizing.

The research was conducted by Damian Frank and colleagues at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, who set out to examine the differences in children and adults in sulphur volatile production in saliva and the impact on tolerance of Brassica vegetables.

The study has been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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