Science has confirmed that a preference for sweet or fatty foods can indeed put inches on the waistline. Investigators found that Pima Indians in Arizona, who are naturally prone to obesity, were more likely to gain weight over time if they particularly liked the taste of highly sweetened and fatty foods.
These results show that what we like to eat influences what we eat, and people who enjoy less healthy foods may pay the price in excess pounds, say the researchers from the National Institutes of Health.
But whether or not our genetic makeup influences our preferences for unhealthy foods remains unclear. Although researchers have identified the genes for certain taste receptors, this area of study remains extremely new, and there is much yet to learn.
Our genes may contribute to the problem, but in the end, choices are also made of free will, they said.
During the study, the research team asked 123 Pima Indians to taste samples of skim milk, whole milk, half and half, and cream. The investigators added varying amounts of sugar to the samples, and asked each person to indicate how much they enjoyed each sample. The researchers then weighed 75 of the group an average of five years later, to see if their preference for fat and sweet flavours affected their size.
They found that the participants who particularly enjoyed the more fat- and sugar-laden samples tended to gain more weight than those who preferred the healthier choices. The researcher believes the current findings apply to people of all racial backgrounds. While taste is influenced by genetics, environment likely plays a strong role, as well.
Taste preferences are likely influenced by habit and habits can be changed, noted the researchers.
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