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UFCST research finds children are more sensitive to sugar

According to new research published by members of the UFCST, children are more sensitive than adults when it comes to how much sugar is in their food.

UFCST and Plant Innovation Center members Linda Bartoshuk, Thomas Colquhoun and David Clark collaborated as well as researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center found children can notice even minute differences in fructose content between blueberry varieties.

The research was a collaboration with UF’s Plant Innovation Center and Monell Chemical Senses Center

“We found that children prefer higher levels of fructose and appear to be more sensitive to small changes in the sugar content of blueberry fruit than did adult,” the researchers wrote. “These findings provide insight into the child consumer and highlights the potential for consumer-driven breeding to produce fruit accepted by young children.”

Researchers used a special tool known as a Brix meter to determine the sugar content in three blueberry cultivars – “Arcadia,” “Keecrisp” and “Kestrel” – and found that children preferred the sweeter variety every time.

In the first test, Keecrisp was the berry with the highest sugar content and was preferred by both children and adults. About 4 degrees Brix, equivalent to 4 grams of sugar in 100 milliliters of solution, separated the sugar content of Keecrisp and the other two varieties.

The second test, featuring a different harvest of the same berry cultivars, once again found children preferring the most sugary berry (this time Arcadia) even though adult tasters were split between the three types of blueberries.

The difference between the sugar content of the berries used in the second round of testing was half that of the first test.

That proclivity for all things sweet makes children vulnerable to diets full of inexpensive and highly sweetened manufactured foods that compete directly with sweet, nutritious foods such as blueberries.

“Because a diet insufficient in fruits is the top dietary risk factor contributing to both global burden of disease and mortality, the time is ripe to focus on children,” the researchers concluded.

“We need to determine what types of experiences and for how long the taste experience needs to last to develop evidence-based strategies that foster the liking of the varying sweetness and textures of whole fruit.”