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The Impact of Genetics on How Kids Snack

Summary: Researchers report the choice of snack your child asks for could be down to their genetics.

Source: University of Guelph.

Whether your child asks for crackers, cookies or veggies to snack on could be linked to genetics, according to new findings from the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph.

The study grabbed headlines in the National Post and on CTV News.

Researcher Elie Chamoun investigated whether genetic variants in taste receptors related to sweet preference, fat taste sensitivity and aversion to bitter green leafy vegetables influence the snacks chosen by preschoolers. He found that nearly 80 per cent of preschoolers in the study carried at least one of these potential at-risk genotypes that could predispose them to poor snacking habits.

“Kids are eating a lot more snacks now than they used to, and we think looking at how genetics can be related to snacking behaviour is important to understanding increased obesity among kids,” said Chamoun, a PhD candidate in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences and a member of the Guelph Family Health Study. “This new research could help parents understand how their kids taste, and tailor their diet for better nutritional choices.”

Published in the journal Nutrients, the study looked at connections between the genes of the three at-risk taste receptors and linked them to snacking patterns among preschoolers.

The study entailed tracking the day-to-day diets of nearly 50 preschoolers and found that one-third of the kids’ diets were made up of snacks. Chamoun also tested the participants’ saliva to determine their genetic taste profile.

Chamoun discovered that kids with a sweet tooth, who have the gene related to sweet taste preference, ate snacks with significantly more calories from sugar. They also ate those snacks mostly in the evening.

“It’s likely these kids snacked more in the evening because that’s when they are at home and have more access to foods with high sugar,” said Chamoun.

The children with the genetic variant related to fat taste sensitivity were found to consume snacks with higher energy density. People with this genetic variant may have low oral sensitivity to fat and therefore consume more fatty foods without sensing it, said Chamoun.

cookies

The study entailed tracking the day-to-day diets of nearly 50 preschoolers and found that one-third of the kids’ diets were made up of snacks. Chamoun also tested the participants’ saliva to determine their genetic taste profile. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

“Higher-energy density snacks, such as cookies with lots of sugar and fat, have a higher number of calories for their weight. Those are snacks you want to avoid.”

The children with the genetic variant related to avoiding bitter vegetables also consumed snacks with high energy density.

“They might be replacing those healthy veggies with unhealthy snacks. This is why they may be consuming more energy-dense snacks, because they are avoiding the healthy ones.”

This study is the first in an emerging area of nutrition research.

If researchers can establish a solid link between genetics and taste, then we can create tests that will help parents determine which genetic variants their children have, said Chamoun.

“This could be a valuable tool for parents who might want to tailor their children’s diet accordingly. For example, if you know your child has a higher desire for sweet foods based on their genetics, you might be more likely to limit or reduce their accessibility to those foods in the home.”

About this neuroscience research article

Source: University of Guelph
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Video Source: Video credited to uofguelph.
Original Research: Open access research in Nutrients.
DOI:10.3390/nu10020153

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of Guelph “The Impact of Genetics on How Kids Snack.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 24 February 2018.
< http://neurosciencenews.com/genetics-kids-snacks-8555/>.
University of Guelph (2018, February 24). The Impact of Genetics on How Kids Snack. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved February 24, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/genetics-kids-snacks-8555/
University of Guelph “The Impact of Genetics on How Kids Snack.” http://neurosciencenews.com/genetics-kids-snacks-8555/ (accessed February 24, 2018).

Abstract

Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in Taste Receptor Genes Are Associated with Snacking Patterns of Preschool-Aged Children in the Guelph Family Health Study: A Pilot Study

Snacking is an integral component of eating habits in young children that is often overlooked in nutrition research. While snacking is a substantial source of calories in preschoolers’ diets, there is limited knowledge about the factors that drive snacking patterns. The genetics of taste may help to better understand the snacking patterns of children. The rs1761667 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the CD36 gene has been linked to fat taste sensitivity, the rs35874116 SNP in the TAS1R2 gene has been related to sweet taste preference, and the rs713598 SNP in the TAS2R38 gene has been associated with aversion to bitter, green leafy vegetables. This study seeks to determine the cross-sectional associations between three taste receptor SNPs and snacking patterns among preschoolers in the Guelph Family Health Study. Preschoolers’ snack quality, quantity, and frequency were assessed using three-day food records and saliva was collected for SNP genotyping (n = 47). Children with the TT genotype in TAS1R2 consumed snacks with significantly more calories from sugar, and these snacks were consumed mostly in the evening. Total energy density of snacks was highest in the CC and CG genotypes compared to the GG genotype in TAS2R38, and also greater in the AA genotype in CD36 compared to G allele carriers, however this difference was not individually attributable to energy from fat, carbohydrates, sugar, or protein. Genetic variation in taste receptors may influence snacking patterns of preschoolers

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