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Non-Alcoholic

Coffee lovers might be undiagnosed psychopaths --but it's nothing to worry about

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Innsbruck University scientists tested over 1,000 people and concluded that those who like bitter foods were more likely to score higher in the area of psychopathy, sadism, and aggression. (iStock)

A new study making its way around the Internet has people fearing that their next cup of joe could turn them into Norman Bates from the movie "Pyscho".

According to the study published in journal Appetite, Innsbruck University scientists tested over 1,000 people and concluded that those who like bitter foods--like coffee, beer and dark chocolate--were more likely to score higher in the area of psychopathy, sadism, and aggression.

The reason for this has to do with the fact that animals in general don’t want bitter-tasting foods, but some humans tend to lean toward them –and apparently some more than others.

The first experiment involved about 500 people, 35 years old on average, who were asked to rate their food preferences, and complete four personality tests.

Each of them were asked what their favorite kinds of foods were -- sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. They were instructed to then take a series of personality assessment quizzes to help rate their aggression levels.

The subjects were asked to assess statements such as: “Given enough provocation, I may hit someone.” Also, other specific personality traits were explored with statements like, “I tend to be callous or insensitive.”

The study's authors say that out of the four tastes (sweet, sour, salty, and bitter), the “affinity” for bitter foods was a more accurate measure of personality than any of the others. “Taken together, the results suggest that how much people like bitter-tasting foods and drinks is stably tied to how dark their personality is.”

Researchers note that what makes someone enjoy a particular kind of food is complex because there are other factors involved in shaping that, including a combination of biology and psychology.  For example, influences like sensitivity to tastes, odors, and even past experiences, go into making preferences.

The study adds insight into learning how bitter foods and personality work together.  But it doesn’t answer other questions, like is it biological, psychological, or both.

But other research shows that how a person perceives the taste of bitter foods is based on genetics.   According to John Hayes, assistant professor of food science in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, whether we like or dislike bitter food depends on which versions of taste-receptor genes a person has.

Those genes affect dietary choices, such as whether we eat enough vegetables, drink alcoholic beverages or enjoy citrus fruits. "Just like some people are color blind, some people are taste blind and simply can't taste bitter things that others can," Hayes said in 2011.

So the upshot is, if you have a strong penchant for bitter foods, like coffee, beer or dark chocolate, you may be a psychopath – that is, if you have the right genes. So our advice to you is go ahead and grab that cup of coffee, but if you’re worried put down the knife.