March 19, 2009

Kids have biological reason to like sweets

Children have a biological basis to like sweets, which is related to children's high growth rate, U.S. researchers said.

The relationship between sweet preference and growth makes intuitive sense because when growth is rapid, caloric demands increase, geneticist Danielle Reed of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia said in a statement. Children are programmed to like a sweet taste because it fills a biological need by pushing them towards energy sources.

Reed and University of Washington researcher Susan Coldwell looked at sweet preference and biological measures of growth and physical maturation in 143 children ages 11-15.

Based on the results of sensory taste tests, children were classified according to their sweet taste preference into a high preference or low preference group. The researchers found children in the low preference group also had lower levels of a biomarker associated with bone growth in children and adolescents.

The findings -- reported in the journal Physiology & Behavior -- suggest that children's heightened liking for sweet taste is related to their high growth rate and that sweet preferences decline as children's physical growth slows and eventually stops.