Sweet Tooth

Assorted candies in bowls.

Think YOUR sweet tooth gets you in trouble? That’s nothing compared to Hansel and Gretel!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Birthday cake! Juice boxes! Froot Loops! Kids LOVE sugar! But just how much — and WHY?

Sara Petty and her team at University of Illinois looked for answers.

They gave glasses of water with dissolved sugar to hundreds of children and adults. Participants swished the water in their mouth, then spit it out. They were asked if they could taste any sugar, and which glass they preferred.

Adults preferred water with eight sugar cubes, similar to a glass of soda. Children, however, went for the glass with a whopping TWELVE sugar cubes. That’s FIFTY percent more sugar!

Is this because children can’t taste sugar? No! Children were BETTER than adults at detecting sugar in water. Petty’s team thinks that sugar preferences change as we grow into adults. Sugar might just play a bigger role in the brain’s reward system for children.

So, if the kids eat all your Halloween candy? Give them a break – it’s SCIENCE!

Reference: Petty, S.; Salame, C.; Mennella, J.A.; Pepino, M.Y. Relationship between Sucrose Taste Detection Thresholds and Preferences in Children, Adolescents, and Adults. Nutrients 2020, 12, 1918. DOI: 10.3390/nu12071918