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Why are some kids more sensitive to sugar than others?

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Why are some kids more sensitive to sugar than others? Take one child who suffers from obesity and one child who has grown up on a relatively sugar-free diet. Give them both a glass of water with a tiny amount of sugar in it. Which kid would be more likely to identify that something had been added to their drink? Some new research has come up with findings that you might not expect.

In a recent article, one of the authors of the study, Behavioral Geneticist Danielle Reed, PhD, was quoted as saying:

“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. But we actually found the opposite. The obese kids were more sensitive.”

The study was released by the Monell Center, which specialises in researching taste and smell, and it found that kids who could taste sugar at lower concentrations were more likely to be overweight. Those kids also often had a specific gene variant that is known to influence receptiveness to bitter tastes.

Here are some points from the article:

  • The researchers looked at 216 healthy children between the ages of 7 and 14. Each one was tested for his or her sensitivity to sucrose by being given solutions of water and sucrose to swish around their mouths and then being asked if they could taste anything.
  • Various aspects of the children’s weight were also recorded and their DNA was tested to find commonalities between the more sensitive subjects.
  • The researchers can’t quite figure out why, but speculate that it might be because if sugar has a very strong effect on the receptors on the tongue, it may also have a strong effect on other organs in the body. It could also be that sugar has a different effect on the biology or metabolism of those who react to it in smaller doses.
  • In general, children are more sensitive to sugar than adults and they like higher levels of sugar than adults do and will make heroic efforts to seek it out.
  • These preferences decline during adolescence, as kids stop growing. Scientists think that’s because sugar is great for bone growth but used to be hard to find, so humans evolved to favour it while young.

Whether your child is sensitive to sugar or not, the best thing to do is keep it at a minimum in their diet and follow the wise words of study author, Ms Reed:

“When we were evolving sugar was very rare and very helpful… Now it’s too available and it has turned on us.”

Follow the link to read the full article.

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