Depressed kids prefer intense taste of sweetness

Depressed kids prefer intense taste of sweetness Washington, Feb 11 : Blame both family history of alcoholism and a child's own reports of depression for his or her response to intense sweet taste, says new research.

"We know that sweet taste is rewarding to all kids and makes them feel good," said Julie A. Mennella, developmental psychobiologist at Monell Centre in Pennsylvania, who led the study.

"In addition, certain groups of children may be especially attracted to intense sweetness due to their underlying biology."

Because sweet taste and alcohol activate many of the same reward circuits in the brain, researchers examined the sweet preferences of children with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism.

They also studied the influence of depression, theorising that children with depressive symptoms might have a greater affinity for sweets because sweets make them feel better.

In the study, 300 children aged between five and 12 years tasted five levels of sucrose (table sugar) in water to determine their most preferred level of sweetness.

They were also asked questions to assess the presence of depressive symptoms, while their mothers reported information on family alcohol use.

Nearly half (49 percent) of the children had a family history of alcoholism, based on having a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle who had received a diagnosis of alcohol dependence. Nearly a quarter were classified as exhibiting depressive symptoms.

Liking for intense sweetness was greatest in the 37 children with both a positive family history of alcoholism and also reporting depressive symptoms.

The most liked level of sweetness for these children was 24 percent sucrose, which is equivalent to about 14 teaspoons of sugar in a cup of water and more than twice the level of sweetness in a typical cola.

This was one third more intense than the sweetness level preferred by the other children, which was 18 percent sucrose, says a Monell Centre release.

"It may be that even higher levels of sweetness are needed to make depressed children feel better," said Mennella.

These findings were published online in Addiction.(IANS)