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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world