The Scoop on Food

Kids Who Can Easily Detect Sugar Are More Likely to Be Obese, Study Says

A new study published online in Nursing Research links sugar-sensitivity to obesity in children.

Kid eating donut with sprinkles Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock
Does your kid have a serious sweet tooth? That could mean that she is sugar-sensitive—or able to detect sugar even at low concentrations.

A new study by the Monell Center found that youngsters who can easily taste sugar are actually more likely to be obese, which is not what researchers had originally predicted.

Researchers had first hypothesized that heavier children would be less sensitive to sugar and, therefore, need higher concentrations of sugar to be satisfied—but their assumption was proved wrong.

The study published online in Nursing Research found that "children having more body fat were more sensitive to sugar and were able to detect a sweet taste at lower concentrations of sucrose," said lead author Paule Valery Joseph, PhD, in a press release.

To draw conclusions, researchers measured each child's "sweet taste threshold." In order to determine this, over 200 healthy kids between the ages of 7 and 14 were given two drinks. One cup contained distilled water while the other contained a sugar solution. After consumption, children were asked about the liquids' taste, and the lowest distinguishable sugar concentration was deemed the child's "sweet taste threshold."

"The most sensitive child required the equivalent of only 0.005 teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a cup of water to detect sweetness," according to the press release. "Whereas the least sensitive needed three teaspoons to get the same sensation."

Notably, kids who were most sugar-sensitive also often showed a gene variant that can make them more sensitive to bitter tastes as well.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who has been battling a hardcore sweet tooth for as long as she can remember. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.