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Kids & Sugar

December 24, 2015

Some children are much better at detecting sugar in food and drink than others.


5897570911_d7d8b79657_z Steven Depolo CC BY 2.0 via flickr

(Steven Depolo/CC BY 2.0, via flickr)


Sugar’s bitter reception. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

For adults, the holiday season can mean an overabundance of sugary treats. But most kids revel in the sweet bounty. Now, scientists writing in Nursing Research have discovered that some kids have vastly superior sugar-detectors than others.

DANIELLE REED (Monell Chemical Senses Center):

And what we found was that some children could detect a few grains of sugar dissolved in water, whereas some would take teaspoons to detect.


That’s behavioral geneticist Danielle Reed of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. She and her colleagues were surprised to learn that the best young sugar-detectors had variants of a gene responsible for bitter receptors on the tongue, rather than sweet ones.


And so the kids that were more sensitive to bitters were also more sensitive to sweet.


Understanding individual differences could play a role in addressing obesity and diabetes in young people. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.