What if some people actually eat more sugar because they are physically more receptive to the taste? Research from the Monell Center is examining exactly that – varying degrees of sensitivity to sweet taste. They are discovering that some people who have a ‘sweet tooth’ might actually be driven to eat more sugary foods because of a different oral sensation to sweetness.
While one person might experience a sweet taste immediately, some people have to consume more sugar to achieve that same sensation. The level of sugar sensitivity is startling. Some people are as much as 20X more attuned to detecting sugar than others.
The difference seems to be genetically predetermined. There is both a bitter receptor gene and a “too sweet” receptor gene. The children who participated in the Monell Center study who were more responsive to bitterness were the same children to respond to the “too sweet” taste, while other children were not nearly as sensitive and could not easily detect the flavor.
There is a correlation between taste sensitivity and calorie consumption. Greater sensitivity to sweetness is linked to increased body fat. The research suggests that the people who are more attuned to sweetness are actually driven to eat more of it.
I was surprised to read this, and apparently the researchers were also surprised. We all assumed that it would be the opposite; that the more obese children would be less sensitive to sugar and that they are driven to eat more of it because it takes more sugar for them to be able to taste it. But it was the opposite. The kids most sensitive to sugar ate more of it, and had more body fat as a result.
What do you think about this study? How do these findings apply to you? Do you have a sweet tooth? I’d be interested to find out about the salt response. Many people crave salty foods the same way that the kids in this study crave sugar. I wonder if salt cravings are also triggered by a "salty" gene. You don’t have to have your genes tested to learn about your food impulses. I think that the research is interesting, and it’s very important for us to get to know ourselves, our bodies, what works for us, and what doesn’t.
Stephanie is a Holistic Health Coach who specializes in helping busy women honor themselves, their family, and their future by showing them how to streamline their life, eat better, create more energy, and make better decisions in order to decrease stress.