Having a sweet tooth can make it so much harder to lose weight, you inevitably end up caving in to those cravings. You may beat yourself up for this, viewing your inability to stay away from sweet foods as a personal weakness.
But is this really the case? Or are some of us actually physically predisposed to wanting more sugar?
What does the research say?
One study found that through looking at identical twins vs. fraternal twins, that genetics played a huge role in the perception of how sweet something was. Some of us have a weak sweet taste, which means that more sugar is needed to give them that sweet “kick” than for someone who is more sensitive to sweet tastes.
Fraternal twins on the other hand had very different sweetness sensitivity, as researchers looked into the theory being that anyone exposed to a lot of high sugar foods growing up would have a weak sweet taste as a result.
In essence, what was proposed is that two non-identical siblings that ate the same foods growing up should have similar sweetness sensitivity if environment was what determined a weak/strong sweet taste sensitivity. Instead they found there were vast difference in sensitivity between fraternal twins, but not identical twins.
So our past eating habits aren’t what makes us crave sugar?
Not quite. We know that our ability to taste starts in the womb, with flavours being passed into the amniotic fluid and swallowed by the fetus, so an infant will be more likely to accept foods similar to those consumed during pregnancy.
We also know that tastebuds can change, and that the life cycle of tastebuds is somewhere between ten days and two weeks. Following a diet with reduced sugary foods over a few weeks or more can increase sensitivity to sugar, so that foods that used to taste just right before now seem too sweet. The longer you change your diet for, the more sensitive you become, and the more you are satisfied with foods that have a lower sugar content.
What does this all mean?
So it appears that having a sweet tooth is actually a real thing, and largely determined by genetics, but it is also under our control to change this over time with healthy low added sugar diets.
Understanding that things may feel more challenging in the short term when changing to healthier eating habits, but knowing that this will get easier after a few weeks can be very helpful in keeping up with healthy habits long term for those of us with a sweet tooth.