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Researchers say the brain is the

WASHINGTON – Woe to those who have a cold on Thursday. If you can’t smell the roasting turkey, it just won’t taste as good.

And if you think the brussels sprouts are bitter, well, blame how many taste buds you were born with, not the chef.

But never fear: Even after you’re pleasantly stuffed from second helpings, there’s a little spot deep in your brain that still gives a “Wow!” for pumpkin pie.

How we taste is pretty complicated, an interaction of the tongue, the nose, psychological cues and exposure to different foods.

But ultimately, we taste with our brains.

“Why do we learn to like foods? When they’re paired with something our brains are programmed to see as good,” says Dr. Linda Bartoshuk of the University of Florida, a specialist in the genetics of human taste.

Sorry, brains are programmed to want fat, probably an evolutionary hangover from times of scarcity. But what’s necessary for survival isn’t all the brain likes. University of Michigan researchers just uncovered that eating something tasty can spark brain cells that sense actual pleasure to start firing rapidly.

More provocative, how intensely people sense different flavors seems to affect how healthy they are.

Are you among the “supertasters,” people who shun vegetables because they find them more bitter than the average person does? Supertasters may be more at risk of developing colon cancer as a result, says a recent University of Connecticut study.

It’s research that sheds light on more than how we eat at food-rich holidays like Thanksgiving. If scientists can prove those connections, it would be empowering information for people struggling to eat better year-round.

“People pile a lot of guilt on themselves,” says Connecticut’s Valerie Duffy, who is leading research into the links between inborn “preference palates” and health.

“We know oral sensation varies,” she adds. “Instead of making one dietary recommendation for all, can we individualize it for what people like to eat?”

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