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Blame DNA for Your Sweet Tooth
A single set of genes determines a person’s sensitivity to sweetness, and access to sugar in childhood has little or no effect on sensitivity, according to a new study.
The study also showed no difference in perception of sweetness between natural sugar and non-caloric chemical substitutes.
“Eating too much sugar is often seen as a personal weakness. However, our work suggests that part of what determines our perception of sweetness is inborn in our genetic makeup,” Dr. Danielle Reed, a behavioral geneticist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, said in a press release. “Just as people born with a poor sense of hearing may need to turn up the volume to hear the radio, people born with weak sweet taste may need an extra teaspoon of sugar in their coffee to get the same sweet punch.”
Researchers studied the difference in sweetness perception among 243 pairs of monozygotic, or identical, twins, 452 pairs of dizygotic, or fraternal, twins, and 511 unpaired individuals. Identical twins have nearly the same genetic make-up, while fraternal twins have about half, so researchers could see how much of a role genes play in detecting sweetness.
Participants were given four types of sweetener — fructose, glucose, aspartame and neohesperidine dihydrochalcone — the first two of which are natural types of sugar and the other two are synthetic.
The results of the study showed that people who perceive natural sugars weakly, perceive the synthetic ones weakly as well. The study also showed that childhood access to sugary or sweet foods and communal meals, as at least some portion of the pairs of twins regularly engaged in during childhood, did not affect their perception of sweetness as adults.
This article is courtesy in part from United Press International.