It’s no surprise researchers have shown again and again that kids are more likely than adults to spring for something like a bowl of Fruit Loops.
But young kids’ preference for extremely sugary foods might be even more biologically ingrained than we thought. Scientists now think that kids’ growing bodies may prompt them to crave more sugar — and a child’s sweet tooth might be heightened during growth spurts.
In a small study, researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia determined what tastes kids prefer by having them rate various soups, sugar waters, jellies and crackers with different levels of salt and sugar.
The study included 108 kids, ages 5 to 10, as well as their moms. The children who preferred sweet solutions over salty ones tended to be tall for their age. And there was a slight correlation between sweet preference and a biomarker of growth found in the kids’ urine.
Julie Mennella, the study’s lead author and a biopsychologist at Monell, says scientists have known for a while that kids prefer both sweeter and saltier tastes than adults, and that kids don’t have to learn to like sugar and salt. But no one could say exactly why.
This study suggests it has to do with children’s development — kids crave more energy and sugar because they’re growing, Mennella tells The Salt. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, since kids who sought out more calories were probably more likely to survive.
This can’t be good news to the First Lady and the army of food police she’s building. This is, after all, the woman who invited kids to the White House for lunch a couple of years ago and forced an abomination called cabbage sloppy joes upon them once she had them trapped.
Now the kids can order a side of banana split with that. Lives depend on it.