Science Catch-up. Why Don’t You Like Cheese? Let’s Ask Your Brain

by The Health Sciences Academy — Get free science updates here.

Welcome to our Thursday’s Science Catch-up: curated links by The Health Sciences Academy. Get our email updates every other Thursday here (it’s free).

Let’s catch you up with studies and news that recently made the headlines!

Click on your favourite topics to read our summary:

1. Why don’t you like cheese? Let’s ask your brain…

2. Epigenetics: Overeating damage eased off by training?

3. Want to exercise more? Get yourself some competition [Video]

4. Sucralose confirmed as non-carcinogenic

5. ‘Ultraprocessed’ foods increase weight gain risk

6. New book review: “How Not To Die”

7. Hate exercise? It may be in your genes…

8. Smoking a pack daily for a year causes 150 extra mutations in lung cells

Why don’t you like cheese? Let’s ask your brain…

Study link


6 cheese types were used as stimuli: blue cheese, Cheddar, goat cheese, Gruyère, Parmesan, and tomme. Other foods used for comparison include cucumber, fennel, mushroom, pâté, peanut, and pizza (Royet et al., 2016)

In uncovering the mystery of why some people turn their nose up at a ripe Camembert, a group of French scientists published an interesting study into the neurobiology of disliking cheese.

Since the French cheeseboard parades 1600 varieties, the scientists put their study subjects under fMRI brain scans, so any feelings of disgust towards cheese could be mapped in the brain.


Aversion to cheese and other foods, followed by observations of disgust for cheese using an fMRI scan (Royet et al., 2016)

Interestingly, the brain area involved in hunger failed to light up when the cheese-haters could see and smell the various cheeses. However, when the subjects where presented with all other food types, this brain area was activated.

This indicates it was just the cheese that didn’t do the trick!

Note: There is a suggestion that a genetic mutation in some of us drives an aversion to cheese. In fact, evolutionary genetics may shed light on the possibility that it is your ancestral gene inheritance which influences whether you reach for the stilton or not! See more in our fascinating (and brand-new) Science Report, “Nutrigenetics 101: Eating Right For Your Genes” here (optional resource).

Epigenetics: Overeating damage eased off by training?

Study link


High-intensity exercise counteracted adverse effects from short-term overeating in adipose tissue, including differential expression of 7 genes involved in metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and glucose control (Walhin et al., 2016)

December is around the corner, but with it also comes a period of overindulgence… end-of-year parties, family gatherings, and dinners with friends.

The problem is that as little as 1 week of overeating can impair blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity, as previous research has shown.

For example, overeating and too much insulin switch off the PDK4 gene in your fat cells, increasing the use of glucose instead of burning fat for fuel.

However, just in time before all the feasting this December, this new study found that exercising your body can protect you from poor fat metabolism and fat tissue inflammation caused by a few days of overeating.

The study participants who overate (50% extra calories) for 7 days but exercised vigorously for 45 minutes daily (at 70% of their maximum oxygen uptake, i.e. VO2max) had 7 genes within adipose tissue expressed differently, including the PDK4 gene – when compared to the non-exercisers.

Fascinating. I think this is very helpful information since overindulging during the festive season is so common. 45 minutes of turbo training a day may prove challenging when celebrating, but at least it is nice to know and to have the option to plan for something like that.

Want to exercise more? Get yourself some competition [Video]

Study link

This behavioural experiment suggests that competition motivates people in group classes to keep coming back, and that it might be a stronger motivator than just friendly support.

I think this is useful information for gym owners, who can implement gaming and group metrics for their members, for example. I’ve seen some gyms increasingly investing in technology like this, with app trackers and group chats.

Here’s an interesting video abstract for this experiment conducted by Penn University:

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Sucralose non-carcinogenicity: a review of the scientific and regulatory rationale

Study link

According to food authorities, the artificial sweetener sucralose is not considered to be carcinogenic, meaning that they do not link it to increased cancer risk.

This systematic review, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, looked at both animal and human studies on sucralose, confirming there is no evidence that sucralose leads to cancer, even at doses that are much greater than normal dietary intakes.


Absorption, disposition, metabolism, and excretion of sucralose (Berry et al., 2016)

‘Ultraprocessed’ foods increase weight gain risk

Study link

This observational study followed the diets and body weight of 8,451 participants for about a decade, who initially weren’t overweight or obese.

So, what happened after a decade?

1,939 of them became overweight or obese, and they were also frequent consumers of “ultraprocessed” food products.

In other words, consuming “ultraprocessed” food products regularly is linked to a higher risk of overweight and obesity.

You can see the main sources of ultraprocessed foods in this table:


This list depicts the foods considered to be ultraprocessed, which are associated with weight gain risk (Gea et al., 2016)

New book review: “How Not To Die”

Book review link

We thought it’d be fun to review the book “How Not To Die: Discover The Foods Scientifically Proven To Prevent And Reverse Disease”, by Dr Michael Greger, and to highlight the kinds of things we noticed that perhaps most readers are not aware of.

Read our unbiased review and learn how we’ve rated this book here.

Hate exercise? It may be in your genes…

News link

More on personal genetics!

This news release explains that genes which modulate brain reward may play a role your propensity to embrace (or to avoid) exercise.

Note: Besides brain reward regulated by the dopamine response, there are other genes involved in your exercise tendencies and athletic capacity. But even if you struggle to get out and work up a sweat, you’re not doomed by poor genetics. There still might be an athlete in you! Find about those genes and other influences in How Genetic Is Your Level Of Exercise – Or Lack Of?

Smoking a pack daily for a year causes 150 extra mutations in lung cells

News link

Cancer is caused by mutations in the DNA of a cell. So scientists have been measuring the genetic damage from smoking in different organs in the body, including DNA mutations.

In this study, they found that smokers accumulated 150 extra mutations in every lung cell for every year of smoking a pack daily.

But the damage wasn’t just on lung cells. Smoking also caused a significant number of mutations in larynx, pharynx, mouth, bladder, and liver cells.

This means that smoking increases cancer risk in other body tissues as well, and not just your lungs.


Comparison between tobacco smokers and lifelong non-smokers on DNA damage, including 150 extra mutations on lung cells per year of smoking (Alexandrov et a., 2016)

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What’s your key learning from today’s Science Catch-up? What do you think of some of these discoveries? Tell us in the comments below!

The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right Alex Ruani, Doctoral Researcher, is the Chief Science Educator at The Health Sciences Academy, where her team of accomplished scientists and PhDs are training a new breed of over 100,000 highly-specialised nutrition professionals who are leveraging the latest personalisation strategies to help their clients. She is a Harvard-trained scientist and UCL Doctoral Researcher who is fanatical about equipping health professionals with the latest science-based tools so they can succeed in their practices – from identifying the unique nutrient needs to building highly personalised nutrition programs. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition biochemistry, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free email updates.

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