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Sweet Tooth May Forecast Drinking Problem

Study finds it might be an indicator of genetic risk for alcoholism

FRIDAY, Nov. 14, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Having a sweet tooth precedes alcoholism and may serve as a marker for the genetic risk for developing the disease.

That's the sobering conclusion of a study in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

"Previous research has established that in mammals such as mice, rats and monkeys, the preference for and consumption of sweet fluids are strongly correlated with voluntary alcohol intake," study author Alexei B. Kampov-Polevoy, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says in a prepared statement.

Prior research by Kampov-Polevoy also showed people who are alcoholics prefer sweeter fluids than non-alcoholics. But it wasn't clear whether the preference for sweet fluids was a result of a long history of drinking or whether this sweet tooth preceded alcoholism.

This new study sought to answer that question. It included 163 social drinkers who were divided into two groups. The 81 people in the first group had a paternal history of alcoholism, while the 82 people in the second group did not.

All the study participants rated a series of sucrose solutions for intensity of sweetness and palatability. People with a paternal history of alcoholism were 2.5 times more likely to enjoy the sweet solution than the people in the second group.

"This finding indicates that sweet liking precedes alcoholism and suggests that the association previously reported is unlikely to be due to differential histories of alcohol exposure," David Overstreet, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says in a prepared statement.

"This finding adds further weight to the hypothesis for the association between the liking for sweets and the genetic risk for alcoholism. However, it does not provide definitive proof," Overstreet says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about alcoholism.

SOURCE: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, news release, Nov. 14, 2003
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