You can credit your parents for your baby blues or your olive skin but other less obvious traits may also stem from your genes. Mom and Dad could even be to blame for your dislike of cilantro, fear of dentists, and utter lack of athletic ability. Here, 7 behaviors, preferences, and more, all—surprisingly—controlled by your genes.
1. You absolutely cannot wake up without coffee.
If your parents reach for a cup of joe before they start their day, chances are you do, too. A study led by Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers shows a genetic link between responses to caffeine. This could relate to variations in genetic differences in drug receptors (the part of the cell that interacts with a drug molecule—in this case caffeine) among people, says Riya Pulicharam, MD, director of clinical research, HE & Outcomes at HealthCare Partners in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. This diversity may determine whether or not a person experiences a positive or negative reaction to caffeine. (See the happy affect coffee can have on you with this fun infographic.)
2. The smell of Mexican food makes you cringe.
A gene that influences smell may be responsible for a strong dislike of the herb cilantro, which is often used in Mexican cuisine. A genetic survey of nearly 30,000 people traced a cilantro aversion to a gene, OR6A2, which is very sensitive to the chemicals that give the herb its distinct flavor. Those put off by it said cilantro tasted like soap. For people who still want to enjoy the herb as a seasoning, researchers suggest crushing the leaves, which helps eliminate the aroma.
3. You’d rather skydive with a sketchy-looking parachute than get your teeth cleaned.
Not many people look forward to a dentist appointment, but an actual fear of the dentist can be handed down from parents, a study from Madrid shows. Published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, the research found a link between fear levels amongst fathers, mothers, and children. “If the parents are hovering over the dentist’s chair, making comments such as, ‘Don’t worry, it won’t hurt; it will be over soon,’ the child feels that there is something to worry about,” says Don Atkins, DDS, a dentist in Long Beach, CA. If this carries over into adulthood, the child may become part of the 9-15% of adults who avoid the dentist due to fear. Of course, this sort of behavior likely applies to other types of anxiety, too—something to keep in mind if you’re a nervous parent.