A new study has found that kids who often crave sweet-tasting snacks as opposed to salty ones have a higher chance of excess weight gain as they grow up.
Pulished in the Journal of Pediatrics, the study sheds light on how some kids are predisposed to having a preference for foods high in sugar content.
The study’s authors—researchers from the University of Michigan—interviewed over 200 low-income mothers, asking them to let their children fast for one hour before offering them a hearty lunch.
After their one hour was up, each child was offered a tray of snacks: sweet treats like chocolate chip cookies, and salty ones like potato chips. They were then assured that they were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.
Upon observing the kids, they noticed that those who chose sweet over salty snacks showed a higher risk for increased body fat once they reach about three years old.
Love for sweets may be in the genes
The results indicate that there may really be individuals born with a sweet tooth, putting them at higher risk for unhealthy weight gain, according to lead study author Dr. Julie Lumeng.
“There’s been a literature out there for the past 10 or 20 years that there’s variability between kids, at least at school age, in how interested they are in eating dessert after they already have a filling meal,” she shared with CBS News. “There have been some studies that show there are genetics underlying that. But no one ever looked at it in kids this young.”
She believes their research suggests that “the liking for sweet tastes is probably biologically-wired, and some kids are just born with more of an interest in dessert than others.”
Parents need to be careful
Dr. Lumeng suggests that parents be extra cautious with the food choices they present to their children.
But, she clarifies, the inclination for sweets can’t be prevented.
“If you notice when your child is one or two years old that they’re really interested in sweet foods, that may be a signal that they were just born that way and you may need to be more vigilant in monitoring the types of food you have in the house, maybe a closer eye than with a different child or a sibling,” says Dr. Lumeng.
One way is to get them interested in fruit; a healthier option to satisfy their sweet tooth.
“For children who prefer sweet foods, I suggest fresh fruit, dried fruit such as mango slices, dark chocolate and nuts,” dietitian Lauren Graf told CBS News. “These foods tend to be not only more nutritious, but also more filling than eating one or two store-bought chocolate chip cookies.”
Adult food vs. kid food
Dr. Graf also stresses the importance of ditching the notion of separating “kid food” from “adult food”.
“If a food is unhealthy for us as adults, it’s not healthy for children either and can lead to health problems in the future,” she said. “Exposing children to healthy food, like fruits and vegetables, is extremely important in developing their palate. The foundation of a healthy diet is built in early childhood.”
She also believes that more research is needed to figure out just why some kids are born with a penchant for sugary foods and if there is a way to reverse this.
“The question is why?” she said. “Either how are you born that way or what’s the mechanism underlying it because if we had a way to make it so that people weren’t quite as obsessed with dessert, that would be the golden chalice.”
READ: Cut out sugar for 9 days and have healthier kids
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