Taste is often referred to as subjective. For example certain foods taste bad to me, such as oranges, grapefruit, grapes, raisins, and sweet potatoes. However the wiki article on taste explains that from an evolutionary perspective, it's important that bad taste might indicate poison in the food; taste isn't an arbitrary matter of subjectivity.

With that in mind I pose the question if a food tastes bad to a particular person, is it more likely to be causing harm to that person than someone who finds the food pleasant? In other words, is the bad taste a sign that my body is not suited for some components in the food?

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    $\begingroup$ I vaguely remember a documentary saying that the bitter taste experience may have evolved as an anti-poison mechanism, for example when tasting new berries. Often poisonous ones are bitter. But cyanide tasting of pleasant almonds, or people disliking broccoli are both different - taste is not linked to harm/benefit. We did not evolve with cyanide, and broccoli doesn't trigger the strong "bitter" taste but is rather a childish preference. $\endgroup$ – James Oct 24 '16 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ @AlwaysConfused My answer wouldn't add much more than the comment. Some fowl tasting food is great for our health, some very tasty food will harm us when over-eaten for years, and some tasty or tasteless compounds are actively harmful, and in all the previously mentioned statements there are exceptions! Too broad for my liking. $\endgroup$ – James Oct 26 '16 at 2:13
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    $\begingroup$ Why on earth has this question picked up two close votes for a medical question?! $\endgroup$ – James Oct 27 '16 at 3:48
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    $\begingroup$ Take a look at this article: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25286017 I hope you can acces it. @AlwaysConfused this article is consitent with your answer, citing this would imporve your answer. $\endgroup$ – KingBoomie Oct 28 '16 at 17:35
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tl;dr; If someone likes a food item, then even if it taste not so great to you, it will probably not harm you. If a food item taste awful to everybody (in particular bitter), then it would probably be best to avoid it.

Taste perception per se is not subjective, you either can detect or not a defined compound at a defined concentration. Food preference however is of course much more subjective.

The most established theory in the field is that we evolved both bitterness and sourness as a warning signal for poisonous compounds and inedible food. Bitterness is often the most referenced as most poisonous substances taste bitter to humans (e.g. strychnine, nicotine, ...) and are detected at very low concentrations (in the nM to $\mu$M range) (Meyerhof W, 2005). In comparison, the threshold for sweet taste perception is well above > 100mM (Park DC, 2015), or put otherwise, humans are at least 1000x more sensitive to bitterness compared to sweetness. As a result, we evolved to detect small quantities of bitter compounds and to dislike food items that are bitter as they could be poisonous.

Now for your question, you are probably misusing the word taste when you meant flavor, which is a combination of both taste and aroma (i.e. taste perception and olfaction combined, for example the "taste" of a banana). Food preference varies from people to people based on both genetic, physiological and more importantly environmental factors, in particular food habits. Typical examples are spiciness and saltiness where you can slowly adapt to tolerate higher and higher concentrations, meaning that your own food preferences can shift over your lifetime. Another illustration is the common shift in food preferences between childhood and adulthood. In other words, food preference is not an excellent predictor of a harmful food item.


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