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Heightened preference for sweets linked to physical growth

Children's heightened desire for sweet foods has a biological basis related to their high growth rate, said researchers in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

Across cultures, children prefer higher levels of sweetness in their foods than do adults, a pattern that decreases during adolescence. To explore the biological underpinnings of this shift, researchers looked at sweet preference and biological measures of growth and physical maturation in 143 children aged of 11 to 15 years.

On the basis of sensory taste test results, researchers classified the children according to their sweet taste preference into high-preference or low-preference groups. Children in the low-preference group also had lower levels of a biomarker associated with bone growth in children and adolescents.

Researchers found that other biological factors associated with adolescence, such as puberty or sex hormone levels, were not associated with sweet preference.

"Our findings give us the first link between sweet preference and biological need," said study coauthor Danielle R. Reed, PhD, a geneticist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. "When markers of bone growth decline as children age, so does their preference for highly sweet solutions."

The American Dental Association recommends a balanced diet comprising a variety of foods to help maintain optimal oral health. Choose foods from each of the five major food groups (breads, cereals and other grain products; fruits; vegetables; meat, poultry and fish; milk, cheese and yogurt) and limit the number of between meal snacks. For nutritious snacking, choose foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit.

To learn more about diet and oral health, visit the ADA Web site at www.ada.org.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

5/4/2009

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