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Kids’ snacking habits could be related to genetics: study

A study from the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph says the snack choices kids make could have to do with their genetic makeup


Guelph, Ont. – The Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph has found that what children prefer to snack on could have a lot to do with genetics.

An article on the university’s website (“Sweet, Bitter, Fat: New U of G Study Reveals Impact of Genetics on How Kids Snack,” on Feb. 22, 2018), explains that researcher Elie Chamoun wanted to see “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.”

Chamoun is a PhD candidate in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences and a member of the Guelph Family Health Study.

What he found was 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, says the article.

Chamoun explains that kids today are snacking more often, and “looking at how genetics can be related to snacking behaviour is important to understanding increased obesity among kids.”

For parents, the research may help them better understanding “how their kids taste, and then tailor their diet for better nutritional choices,” says Chamoun in the article.

The study

The study tracked the day-to-day diets of nearly 50 preschoolers, says the article, and “found that one-third of the kids’ diets were made up of snacks.” Chamoun also tested the kids’ saliva “to determine their genetic taste profiles.”

What Chamoun discovered was that kids who had the gene related to sweet taste preference ate snacks with significantly more calories from sugar. The children with the genetic variant related to fat taste sensitivity were found to consume snacks with higher energy density. And the kids with the genetic variant related to avoiding bitter vegetables also consumed snacks with high-energy density, says the article.

“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,” says Chamoun in the article.

For more on the study, click here.


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