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Strong sweet tooth in kids linked to alcoholism, depression

Last Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010 - 13:53

London: Children with an extra-sweet tooth may be depressed or at higher risk of alcohol problems in adulthood, researchers say.

According to scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, certain children are especially drawn to very sweet tastes.

Study``s boffins believe it is so because sweet taste and alcohol trigger many of the same reward circuits in the brain.

The US team reported the finding in the journal Addiction, reports The BBC.
Lead author Julie Mennella said: "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 the intense sweetness due to their underlying biology."

To reach the conclusion, researchers asked 300 children aged five to 12, of whom half had a family member with alcohol dependency, to taste five sweet water drinks containing different amounts of sugar.

The children were asked to say which tasted the best and were also asked questions to check for depressive symptoms. A quarter had symptoms that the researchers believed suggested they might be depressed. Liking for intense sweetness was greatest in the 37 children who had both a family history of alcoholism and reported depressive symptoms.

Cardiff University``s Professor Tim Jacob, an expert in smell and taste, said
the findings could be down to brain chemistry.

He said: "While it is true that sweet things activate reward circuits in the brain, the problem is that sweets and sugar are addictive, because the activation of these reward circuits causes opioid release, and with time more is needed to achieve the same effect.

"But the taste difference may be explained by differences like parental control over sweet consumption."


First Published: Thursday, February 11, 2010 - 13:53

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