As a Vancouver pediatric dentist, our staff at Must Love Kids know all too well how much kids love sugar. Having just survived Halloween, parents may still be finding discarded candy wraps around the house.

For many us, a love of candy doesn’t always end with childhood. Self-described chocoholics can always find a reason to sneak something sweet whatever the time of day. If you ever wonder why you can never resist a slice or cake or why your kids can never stop eating candy, the answer may very well be in your genes.

According to the results of a new study, researchers have discovered why some people love foods high in calories while others can easily resist the most tempting of treats – two genetic variants: The DRD2 and FTO.

Inherited Temptation

To begin their study, researchers started genotyping the DNA of 45 white males between the ages of 19 to 55. The men participating in the study had a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 19.1 kg/m2 go 53.1 kg/m2 – a range that adequately represents every body type from healthy to obese. Researchers wanted to determine variants in the FTO gene (a genetic component closely linked to obesity) and the DDR2 gene (a gene that causes low levels of dopamine in the brain). The DDR2 gene has previously been identified as the neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in how the brain deals with rewards and cravings.

To test their theory, researchers show the study participants photos both of high-calorie and low-calorie foods. Researchers then asked participants to rate how appealing each image was to them, while simultaneously monitoring their brain waves using a MRI.

Amazingly, researchers discovered a higher level of activity in the brains of study participants who rate high-calorie foods as more appealing. Researchers also noted a variant in the brain near the FTO gene.

The study also noted that participants with higher brain activities when looking at the high-calorie foods showed no such spike when looking at images of low-calorie foods.

This study marks the first time researcher discovered that the activation in the area of the brain referred to as the striatum was increased when those with the FTO variant looked at high-calorie foods, but this effect was depended on the type of variant the participant carried for the DRDE gene.

This genetic variant could place some individuals at risk of early on-set diabetes because elevated dopamine levels caused by high-calorie foods. In simpler terms, the brain rewards the body so much when sweet cravings are satisfied it makes it very difficult for individuals with the FTO variant to resist their cravings.

Oral Health Risk

While eating too much sugar will obviously place the oral health of you and your family at risk, poor oral health is also linked to an increased risk for both diabetes and obesity.

By brushing and flossing nightly, you can significantly lower your risk for both of these chronic diseases while also enjoying healthy teeth and gums.

So while you may be tempted by desert, just remember that even if a sweet tooth is part of your nature, you can nurture better eating and brushing habits in you and your kids.

If you have any questions about the best oral health practices, ask the Vancouver pediatric dentist at Must Love Kids.