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Genetic role in snacking patterns of kids
March 4, 2018, 1:21 pm

Whether your child snacks on crackers, cookies or veggies could be linked to genetics, according to new study at the University of Guelph in Canada.

Researchers studied whether genetic variants in taste receptors related to sweet preference, fat taste sensitivity and aversion to bitter green leafy vegetables influence the snacks chosen by preschoolers. They found that nearly 80 percent of preschoolers in the study carried at least one of these potential at-risk genotypes that could predispose them to poor snacking habits.

Looking at how genetics can be related to snacking behavior can be important to understanding the increased rate of obesity among kids, said the researchers. Our research could help parents understand how their kids taste, and tailor their diet for better nutritional choices, they added.

The study, which entailed tracking the day-to-day diets of nearly 50 preschoolers, found that one-third of the kids’ diets were made of snacks. The researchers looked at connections between the genes of the three at-risk taste receptors and linked them to snacking patterns among preschoolers, by testing the participants’ saliva to determine their genetic taste profile.

The study showed 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, surmised the research team.

The children with the genetic variant related to avoiding bitter vegetables also consumed snacks with high energy density. Higher-energy density snacks, such as cookies with lots of sugar and fat, have a higher number of calories for their weight. Those are snacks that kids in particular need to avoid.

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. 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."


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