Strong Sweet Tooth Linked To Alcoholism, Depression


A new research study finds that children with an extreme sweet tooth are more likely to have a family history of alcoholism.

The Study

300 children were given tastes of 5 mixtures of sugar water and chose which level of sweetness they preferred. The children then answered questions to determine whether they had depressive symptoms, and their mothers were asked about the family's history of alcoholism. About 25% of the children had symptoms of depression, and nearly half had a family history of alcoholism.

The researchers found that the 37 children who had both depressive symptoms and a family history of alcoholism had the greatest liking for intense sweetness, preferring sugar water that was twice the sweetness of cola and about 1/3 more intense than the sweetness level preferred by the other children.

What Does This Mean?

As study author Julie A. Mennella, a developmental psychobiologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, cautions, "At this point, we don't know whether this higher 'bliss point' for sweets is a marker for later alcohol use." However, it is known that sweet tastes cause many of the same neurological effects as alcohol, and the study suggests that an attraction to sweetness may be due to an underlying biology. Although it is too soon to determine whether there is a relationship between a preference for sweet tastes as a child and alcoholism later in life, it is an interesting topic for further study.


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