Love cheese

Cheese: understanding why we love it or hate it

Cheese – a magnet to some, and a turn-off for others. But why is it a product some love, and some loathe? Researchers believe they have the answer.

Some people simply hate cheese, although exactly why has been a mystery.

Researchers at the Centre de Recherche en Neuroscience de Lyon and the Laboratoire Neuroscience Paris Seine believe they now know why.

Their results are published online on the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience website.

Genetic origin to aversion?

France has around 1,600 cheese varieties, yet there are those in France who can’t stand cheese.

The researchers studied a sample of 332 individuals to investigate if cheese is indeed the food that most frequently triggers aversion.

Among those with an aversion to cheese, 18% said they are intolerant to lactose. In 47% of these cases, at least one of their family members does not like cheese either. The researchers say that these figures suggest that there is a genetic origin to this aversion, which might be related to lactose intolerance.

To find out what happens in the brain, 15 people who like cheese and 15 who do not were selected and participated in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. They were simultaneously exposed to the image and smell of six different cheeses and six other types of control foods.

They had to state whether they liked the smell and sight of the foods or not, and whether, at that moment, they wanted to eat them.

Observations on the brain

The researchers then observed that the ventral pallidum, a small structure usually activated in people who are hungry, was totally inactive while the smell and image of cheese was being presented to individuals with an aversion to cheese, whereas it was activated for all other food types.

The work provides an insight into the areas of the brain that are activated when an individual is presented with an aversive food and suggests that the reward circuit may also encode disgust.


The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Jean-Pierre Royet, David Meunier, Nicolas Torquet, Anne-Marie Mouly and Tao Jiang.