News article

Children differ widely in sweet sensitivity, study finds link to genetics

Posted:  Wednesday, December 09, 2015

All children love sweets but some kids seem to have an insatiable appetite for a sweet platter. This may be because they need more sugar to experience the same sweet sensation. A recent study now lends credence to this idea. The study found that sensitivity to sugar varies among school-aged children and is partly dependent on genetics.

Published online in the journal Nursing Research, the study looked at the sweet taste threshold of 216 children aged 7 to 14 years. The researchers determined the threshold by evaluating the child’s ability to distinguish between distilled water and a sugar solution. Various sugar concentrations were used to ascertain the lowest sugar concentration a child could tell from water. This level was then considered as the child’s sweet detection threshold.

The results were striking as the researchers found that in order to get the sweet taste, the most sensitive child required as less as 0.005 tsp sugar in water, whereas the least sensitive child required 3 tsp of sugar.

Taking the study forward, the researchers analysed DNA from 168 of the children to check if sweet taste perception has a genetic connection. They specifically looked at variation in 2 sweet taste genes (TAS1R3, GNAT 3), and a bitter receptor gene (TAS2R38). The analyses revealed that variation in the bitter receptor gene was linked to sugar threshold and sensitivity. However, no such link was found with the two sweet receptor genes. The researchers also found that a higher percentage of daily calories was attributable to added sugar in those with the bitter-sensitive gene variant.

"We were surprised to find that sweet taste sensitivity and sugar consumption were related to a bitter receptor gene. This will make us look harder at how we have cubby-holed taste genes into discrete categories and prompt us to explore whether sucrose and other sugars can directly activate bitter receptors," said Danielle Reed, the study author and a behavioural geneticist at Monell Centre.

Moving forward the researchers probed the link between sweet sensitivity and obesity by measuring body composition using bioelectrical impedance. Surprisingly, they found that higher body fat was associated with greater sensitivity to sweet taste.

What’s encouraging about these findings is that it could spur efforts to curb sugar consumption and better nutritional health in children.

News source:- Click Here