There seems to be a link between kids’ snacking patterns and their genes, a new study by Canadian scientists suggests. This study, which is published in the journal Nutrients, is the first in an emerging area of nutrition research.
University of Guelph scientists found a possible link between the two through an investigation that looked into genetic variants in taste receptors related to sweet preference, fat taste sensitivity and aversion to bitter green leafy vegetables were any way related to what preschoolers ate. The study found that almost 8 in 10 preschoolers carried at least one of these potential at-risk genotypes that could predispose them to poor snacking habits.
For the study scientists tracked the day-to-day diets of nearly 50 preschoolers and found that one-third of the kids’ diets were made up of snacks. Researchers also tested the participants’ saliva to determine their genetic taste profile.
The findings indicate that kids with a sweet tooth, who have the gene related to sweet taste preference, ate snacks with significantly more calories from sugar. They also ate those snacks mostly in the evening.
The children with the genetic variant related to fat taste sensitivity were found to consume snacks with higher energy density. People with this genetic variant may have low oral sensitivity to fat and therefore consume more fatty foods without sensing it, said Chamoun.
The children with the genetic variant related to avoiding bitter vegetables also consumed snacks with high energy density.
If researchers can establish a solid link between genetics and taste, then we can create tests that will help parents determine which genetic variants their children have, one of the authors said.
“This could be a valuable tool for parents who might want to tailor their children’s diet accordingly. For example, if you know your child has a higher desire for sweet foods based on their genetics, you might be more likely to limit or reduce their accessibility to those foods in the home”, he said.