Daily Management Review

A Very Sensitive Sweet Tooth is Partly Due to One’s Genes, Concludes a Study


A Very Sensitive Sweet Tooth is Partly Due to One’s Genes, Concludes a Study
People tend to lose their sweet tooth as they grow up. Also, the genetic makeup of an individual decides how much sweetness one likes or dislikes.

These were the conclusions that a group of scientists came to after conducting experiments that involved 695 sets of identical and fraternal twins.

The experiments concluded that while as kids, human beings lobe sweet taste and have a very sensitive sweet tooth, the sensitivity for sweet taste declines 2 to 5 percent each year between the ages of 12 and 26. Thus the liking for sweets gradually decline as one grows older.  The study also conducted similar experiments with bitter tasting food materials and the found the same declining trend for bitter tastes also.

The still ongoing experiment with the adolescent and young identical and fraternal twins and some non-twin siblings is being conducted in Australia.  The study is being done by scientists at the University of Queensland, in Australia, the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and the Rutgers University.

The ultimate aim of the experiment is to identify the genetics behind the differences in likings for sweetness among individuals and hwy some people like sweets while others do not. Also the type of sweetness liked by an individual also varies. For example, someone might like the bitterer taste of dark chocolate to sweeter milk chocolate while having a very acute liking for sweet food.

The experiment included the taste-testing of two sugars- glucose and fructose, and two artificial zero-calorie sweeteners - NHDC, a citrus-derived chemical used in manufactured foods and aspartame, used in Diet Coke among other things. To compare and get results for the scientists also tasted five bitter solutions and water.

The scientists found out that the genes and genetic relatedness had a 30 percent role in how big a role genes played in the differences in people’s sweet taste perceptions. The conclusion was made by statistically analysing the results and the genetic relatedness of the participating twins. This means that some people like sweet food more than others as they are genetically programmed to be more sensitive to sweetness than others. This often drives them to try to eat more sugary food to make up for it.

Though the experiment is still ongoing and more definitive results and conclusions are awaited that would link genetics to liking or dislike for sweetness, a definitive conclusion that would tie such genetic differences to eating habits can help to handle and control certain health problems and diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

The scientists are now trying to link the sweet taste differences to specific genes and DNA quirks. The huge variations in bitter taste perception in different individuals can be traced to specific gene sets. For the sweet tastes differences, the scientists believe that a single set of genes is the probable area of origin. The study has indicated the set of genes but the scientists have not been able to identify a particular gene.  

Some variations in sweetness perception was linked to the genetic code for part of the sweet taste receptor in a study conducted in 2012 by scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center of Philadelphia. The study had concluded that specialized proteins on the tongue detect sugars and signal the brain they’re there.

Studies have also eliminated the influence of environmental factors like diet of having much influence on development of sweet tooth. This means that even if one eats a lot of desert it would not change the intensity at which one experience sweetness. 

(Source: www.forbes.com)