Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sweet tooth in kids tied to alcoholism

By Jeanna Bryner

updated 12:07 p.m. ET, Wed., Feb. 10, 2010
Most kids won't turn down a sugary treat, but it turns out some children prefer more intense sweetness than others. Those kids drawn to sweeter-than-cola drinks are also more likely to have a family history of alcoholism and depressive symptoms, a new study finds.

"We know that sweet taste is rewarding to all kids and makes them feel good," said lead researcher Julie Mennella, a developmental psychobiologist at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. "In addition, certain groups of children may be especially attracted to intense sweetness due to their underlying biology."

The results, however, don't mean a child who likes ultra-sweetened foods will become an alcoholic. It's just a link between sweet preference and family members with alcoholism. "At this point, we don't know whether this higher 'bliss point' for sweets is a marker for later alcohol use," Mennella said.

Either way, the link between sweets and alcohol would make sense, as both activate many of the same reward circuits in the brain, the researchers say. And since sugar can be a mood booster, depressed kids may be drawn to it to help them feel better.

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