The Sweet Tooth Gene

These days everyone knows that a sweet tooth is bad for their teeth.

Avoiding sweets is harder for some people than others and it’s not just a lack of willpower. New research published in the Journal of Appetite Feb 2014 examines the genetic variants of the dopamine-4 receptor in pre-school age children on their food preferences. The research shows that the seven-repeat DRD4 allele affects the brain’s dopamine pathway when sugar is ingested in susceptible individuals. This is the same pathway linked to happiness and it seems to make certain foods taste better and more desirable to certain people and is why some people have a sweet tooth. In the study, people with the gene ate more sweets and ice-cream than those without the sweet tooth gene.

The sweet tooth gene will make it harder for a person to avoid sugary and fattening foods, but not impossible.

See our post on xylitol which can help satisfy this craving without causing a bump in glucose level or feeding bacteria on teeth. According to one of the study’s authors, the desire for excess sweets is tied to emotional well-being, and it may be possible to find other methods of comfort that won’t lead to cavities. You probably know some people who really like sweets, and some who really like salty snacks; Now the genetic basis for this has been discovered. This is helpful to know because some people just give up when they fail their new-years diet, or eat an entire box of Oreos. Don’t give up! It’s going to be a lifetime of telling yourself no! The less you activate this particular reward/dopamine pathway (i.e. the less sweets you eat) the less craving or desire you have after a while. In the case of our children, it would be best to avoid refined sugars all together but let’s get real because nobody does that. Hiding sweets or getting rid of them works the best for me. Good luck!