The types of snacks a child chooses could be linked to genetics, a new study has claimed. The researcher investigated whether genetic variants in taste receptors related to sweet preference, fat taste sensitivity and aversion to bitter green leafy vegetables influenced the snacks chosen by the study participants.
They found that nearly 80% of the study participants 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 Elie Chamoun from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
“This new research could help parents understand how their kids taste, and tailor their diet for better nutritional choices,” Chamoun added. The study, published in the journal Nutrients, entailed tracking the day-to-day diets of a group of pre-schoolers and found that one-third of the kids’ diets were made up of snacks.
The researchers also tested the participants’ saliva to determine their genetic taste profile. They discovered that kids with a sweet tooth, who have the gene related to a 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, the researcher said.