A new study conducted in Philadelphia finds that children are more likely to have a sweet tooth if they have a family history of alcoholism, or if they’ve suffered from depression. Sugary foods and alcohol trigger many of the same reward circuits in the brain, so scientists in this case decided to test the sweet tooth of children with a family history of alcoholism. They also hypothesized that children who suffer from childhood depression might be more likely to crave sweets to make themselves feel better.
The study involved 300 children between the ages of 5 and 12. About half of them had a family history of alcoholism. About 25% of the children showed signs of depression.
Researchers gave the children five different sweetened water samples containing different levels of sugar and asked them which one they liked best. The children who preferred the sweetest sample were the ones who had both a family history of alcoholism, as well as symptoms of depression.
The findings suggest that a preference for sweets might not be solely about taste buds, but instead could have to do with the child’s chemical makeup and family history. The study is careful to point out that children with a sweet tooth won’t necessarily grow up to become alcoholics or suffer from depression.