Study: Children With High Sensitivity to Sugar Are More Likely to Become Obese

Dec 18, 2015 11:10 AM EST | By Denise Valerie Uychiat


It's hard to imagine a kid who has not dreamt about eating all the sugary stuff ever known. It is however every parents' nightmare when their sugar-loving little ones go over what's considered as "more than enough."

Did you know that there are children who can taste as little as 0.005 teaspoons of sugar in a fluid ounce of water, while there are others who need at least 3 teaspoons until they know there was sugar in what they're eating? If we follow logic, we would think that those who are less sensitive to sugar (those people who need more sugar to get the right sweetness) would be at risk of being obese, right? But according to research, they're not.

A recent study released by the Monell Center, which specializes on the study of taste and smell, discovered those kids who has a difficulty tasting food with low sugar content are more likely to be overweight. The study also found that children usually have a certain gene type that influences response to the bitter taste.

The researchers assessed 216 healthy children ranging from age 7 to 14. Every one of them were tested for their sensitivity to sucrose by giving them solutions of water and sucrose to swish around their mouths and then asked if they tasted anything besides water. Children's weights were taken, as well as their DNA to look for commonalities between the more sensitive subjects.

Danielle Reed, PhD, a behavioral geneticist, the lead author of the study said that they did the study thinking that the kids who were insensitive to sugar were going to be the obese kids, because they needed to consume more sugar to get the same effect as the others. But they were surprised to find the opposite. The obese kids were more sensitive.

The researchers can't explain how it happened, but believe it has something to do with the fact that because sugar has a strong effect on the tongue's taste receptors, it may also have a similar effect on other organs in the body. Or it could also be that sugar has a different effect on the metabolism of those who sensitively react to it in smaller amounts.

Generally, they have found that children are more sensitive to sugar than adults and as seen in any candy bars daily, they like higher levels of sugar than adults do, and they will give up anything to get what they want. These choices decrease as soon as they hit adolescence, as they stop growing. Scientists think that's because sugar is great for bone growth but used to be hard to find, so humans evolved to favor it while young.

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