Genetics Affects How Kids Snack

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.

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 children. 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.

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.

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

Children with the genetic variant related to fat taste sensitivity consumed snacks with higher energy density. Kids with the genetic variant related to avoiding bitter vegetables also consumed snacks with high energy density.

Linking genetics and taste may lead to new tests that help parents determine which genetic variants their children have, says Chamoun.