Growing kids are hardwired to prefer sweet-tasting foods, study finds

Scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center found a correlation between a preference for sweet tastes and height in children

Children who raid the sweet cupboard may have an excuse for their behaviour – it’s ingrained in their biological make up.

Researchers have found that children’s tendency to opt for sweet-tasting foods is related to their growing bodies.

Scientists from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia, found that in general more children than adults prefer sweeter tastes – and that those children who most enjoy sweet flavours are also more likely to prefer salty tastes too.    

“Our research shows that the liking of salty and sweet tastes reflects in part the biology of the child,” said lead study author Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist at Monell.

She said that biology predisposes humans to like and consume calorie-rich sweet foods and sodium-rich salty foods, but this is especially evident in children, whose bodies are still developing.

But in today’s consumer culture these predilections present a health risk.

“Growing children’s heightened preferences for sweet and salty tastes makes them more vulnerable to the modern diet, which differs from the diet of our past, when salt and sugars were once rare and expensive commodities,” Ms Mennella added.

In the small study, which was published in the journal PLOS One, Mennella and her colleagues tested 108 children aged between five and 10, as well as their mothers, for sweet and salt taste preferences.

They were asked to rate a number of sugar waters and jellies containing different concentrations of sucrose, as well as soups and crackers containing varying levels of salt.

Analysis of the data collected showed not only that more children than adults liked the sweetest and saltiest flavours best, but that there was a correlation between children’s taste preferences and their growth and development.

The children who preferred sweet solutions over salty ones tended to be tall for their age, while those who exhibited a preference for salt tended to have a higher body fat percentage.

There was also some indication that there is a link between a preference for sweet tastes and spurts in bone growth, but a larger sample size would be required to confirm this.

In the United States, current intakes of sodium and added sugars among children are well in excess of recommendations. Guidelines from leading authorities, including the World Health Organization, recommend significantly cutting sugar and salt intake for children.

Commenting on the implications of the study, Ms Mennella said: “The present findings reveal that the struggle parents have in modifying their children’s diets to comply with recommendations appears to have a biological basis.

"[But] it also paves the way toward developing more insightful and informed strategies for promoting healthy eating that meet the particular needs of growing children,” she added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high