Sweet tooths vulnerable to sour aftertaste – alcoholism
CLINICIANS seeking to identify young adults at risk of alcoholism could ask whether they have a sweet tooth or a predilection for novelty-seeking behaviour.
A US study in 158 healthy young adults (aged 20 to 25 years), with no history of alcohol or drug abuse, found those who exhibited “hedonistic" responses to sweet drinks as well as pronounced novelty-seeking characteristics were 27 times more likely to develop alcohol problems than their peers.
A preference for sweet tastes was associated with a six times greater risk of alcohol problems independent of the presence of novelty-seeking characteristics.
High novelty-seeking scores based on responses to personality questionnaires were also positively associated with higher drink consumption.
Study participants were identified as sweet tooths if they preferred the strongest sucrose solution offered from a range of five sucrose concentrations, with people favouring weaker solutions identified as disliking sweet tastes.
The authors hypothesised that high novelty-seeking behavior led to alcohol problems by initially triggering experimentation and use of alcohol.
“When this occurs in the context of possible increased susceptibility to the rewarding effects of alcohol as seen in the sweet liking phenotype, the development of alcohol-related problems is much more likely,” they said.
Although the authors said the results would need to be confirmed, they suggested identification of these traits in patients could contribute to improved methods to assess risk for alcohol problems.
Alcohol and Alcoholism, online 27 July
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