11 February 2010

Sweet tooth tied to mental health

Depression and a family history of alcoholism may play a role in how much of a sweet tooth a child has, new research suggests.


Depression and a family history of alcoholism may play a role in how much of a sweet tooth a child has, new research suggests.

"We know that sweet taste is rewarding to all kids and makes them feel good. In addition, certain groups of children may be especially attracted to intense sweetness due to their underlying biology," study author Julie A. Mennella, a developmental psychobiologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, said.

The new study included 300 children, aged five to 12, who were given tastes of five amounts of table sugar (sucrose) in water to determine their most preferred level of sweetness.

How the study was done

The children were asked about the presence of depressive symptoms, and their mothers provided information on family alcohol use. About one-quarter of the children had depressive symptoms and 49% had a family history of alcoholism.

A liking for intense sweetness was greatest in the 37 children with both depressive symptoms and a family history of alcoholism, the researchers found.

Among these children, their most preferred level of sweetness was 24% sucrose, equivalent to about 14 teaspoons of sugar in a cup of water and more than twice the sweetness of typical cola. This level of sweetness is one-third more intense than the 18% sucrose preferred by the other children.

It's known that sweet taste and alcohol activate many of the same reward circuits in the brain. But Mennella said the study findings don't necessarily mean there's a link between a child's sweet preferences and the risk of alcoholism later in life

"At this point, we don't know whether this higher 'bliss point' for sweets is a marker for later alcohol use," she said. The study results were published online in the journal Addiction. - (HealthDay News, February 2010)


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules