Children's preferences for sweet and salty are interrelated
(Relaxnews) - Scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pa., Have found that kids who like sweet flavors also like salty flavors, and prefer those flavors more than adults. The study, published in PLOS ONE, suggests that biology contributes to our enjoyment of eating sweet and salty foods, which are high in calories and sodium, respectively.
Lead author Julie Mennella, PhD Monell biopsychologist, and her colleagues tested 108 children between 5 and 10 years of age, as well as their mothers, for preferences for sweet and salty foods. The same test method was used in both groups, who tasted “broth and crackers with varying amounts of salt, and sweetened water and candies with varying amounts of sugar”. Mennella's method has been scientifically developed to determine taste preferences, even in young children. This is accomplished by having participants compare and choose their favorites against two different levels of a particular flavor, and then compare that favorite with another flavor, and so on "until the favorite winner is identified."
The research team also asked mothers and children to list the foods and drinks they had consumed over the past 24 hours to measure their daily intake of sodium, calories and additional sugar. Participants provided a saliva sample that was genetically classified in relation to the candy receptor gene, and a urine sample that measured Ntx levels, an indicator of bone growth. Weight, height and fat percentage were measured in each participant as well. Two-thirds of the children in the survey were overweight or obese, and consumed twice the recommended sodium level. The additional sugar intake was equivalent to 20 teaspoons, or 300 calories daily.
After analyzing the data from this experiment, the researchers found that sweet and savory preferences were interrelated and generally higher than in adults. They also found that children's preferences were “related to measures of growth and development, ” as children who were tall for their age preferred sweeter combinations, while those with a high percentage of body fat preferred saltier soups. An indication that sweet food preferences were related to growth spikes was also found, however this confirmation requires deeper studies with a larger group of children.
“Our research shows that liking salty or sweet foods partially reflects on a child's biology, ” Mennella said. "The growing fondness of sweet and savory children makes them more vulnerable to the modern diet, which is different from the diet of our past, when salt and sugar were rare and expensive commodities ."
A link between sweet and savory preferences has also been found in adults. Unlike children, the candy receptor genotype in adults would be correlated with the highest level of candy preference. "There are congenital differences that affect the preference for sweets in adults, " says collaborator Danielle Reed, PhD, "but in children, other factors - perhaps the state of growth - are more influential than genetics."
With US children currently consuming much higher than recommended amounts of salt and sugar and the World Health Organization, American Heart Association, US Department of Agriculture and Institute of Medicine recommending significant decreases in sugar and salt intake for children, understand that basic biology leads children to desire sweet and savory foods can play an important role in “developing smarter, more instructive strategies for promoting healthy eating that meets children's particular growth needs, ” Mennella said of the implications of your search.