“Kids live in a different sensory world than adults,” said Julie Mennella of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, an author of the study. “When it comes to sweet taste, children are really vulnerable. They use sweet in deciding what they like — and it can be used for good.”
In the new report, researchers from Monell and the University of Florida offered two harvests of blueberries to 49 children and their mothers. They tested three different varieties of blueberries. When asked to pick their favorites, adults and children chose the sweetest berries picked during the first harvest fairly equally, but in the second harvest, the children — aged 6 to 16 — picked the sweeter fruit, while the adults like each variety equally. The study was published last month in The Journal of Food Science.
Mennella says that science can help parents channel the sweet preference to a food humans evolved to like – healthy fruits. Young children are more tolerant of both sweetness and saltiness. Somewhere in mid-adolescence, those windows narrow.
“It’s a really smart biologic response,” said Mennella. “Sweet taste is a signal for calories, and salt is a signal for minerals.”
Although I’m unsure of any evolutionary advantage, I lost my sweet tooth at age 25 when I discovered scotch.