How children react to sugar could make them more likely to be obese


Kids and fizzy drinks is never a good combination - cue excitement, hyperactivity and constant movement. When the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia looked into how children register sugar, the results were surprising.

Rather than the odds of obesity being higher for youngsters who need three teaspoons of sugar in water to register it, researchers discovered the kids who could taste just 0.005 teaspoons of sugar in an ounce of water were more likely to be bigger. This group also showed a specific gene variation that's known to trigger receptiveness to bitter flavours.

A total of 216 healthy seven to 14-year-olds were monitored, with their responses to swirling water and sucrose (sugar) solutions around their mouths tested. Participants were then asked to give feedback.

As well as their weight being noted down, their DNA was looked into, in order to find similarities between those who were sensitive to the solution.

“We went into the study thinking that the kids who were very insensitive to sugar were going to be the obese kids, because they needed to consume more for the same effect,” lead author Danielle Reed, PhD, noted. “But we actually found the opposite. The obese kids were more sensitive.”

The findings are to be published in the Nursing Research journal. While an explanation for the findings is currently missing, experts noted it could be down to the fact sugar has just as strong of an effect on other organs in the body as it does on our tongues. Another reason is that sugar plays a different role in the biology or metabolism of the kids who react to it in smaller doses.

Children are more sensitive to sweet things than adults, and the study authors have a message for parents; when their kids add more sugar to their food, it isn't always deliberate.

“The big message is that kids are really, really different in their sensitivity to sugar,” Danielle adds. “Parents may be freaking out that their kids are adding a lot of sugar or want a lot of sugar in things, but certain kids are pretty insensitive so it could be that they’re adding it just so they can taste it.”

© Cover Media

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