Volume 93, Issue 96

Thursday, March 30, 2000


Shinerama still in doubt

Freeze called for fifth year

CAPS recommends police make streets safer with less money

Taste of sugar linked to gene

Evolutionary link becomes loose with DNA study

Alliance needs more than a name change

Caught on campus


Taste of sugar linked to gene

By Adam Stewart
Gazette Staff

According to a recent study, the notorious "sweet tooth" may be in found in human genes.

Tuesday, researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, announced they found the presence of a gene which determined the manner in which people taste sugar, said study researcher Alexander Bachmanov.

Bachmanov explained the research team investigated chromosomes in laboratory mice to determine which gene was responsible for sugar level preferences.

He said mice experienced the taste of sugar differently, adding his team's findings showed they could be put into three categories: non-tasters, medium tasters and supertasters.

Although the findings suggest this difference is controlled by genes, Bachmanov said the exact location of the gene was yet to be found. He explained this discovery would lead the final stage of his team's research, which would make it easier to find the actual gene responsible.

"One of the problems is that no artificial sweeteners exactly mimic the taste of sugar," Bachmanov said.

The research will help people better understand how taste is organized in the body, which will lead to the development of new artificial sweeteners that will mimic the taste of sugar. Improved sweeteners could be used to enhance the flavours of foods, beverages and medicines, making them taste more like natural sugar, he said.

Pierrette Buklis, director of nutrition communication for the Canadian Sugar Institute, said she hoped the study would cause people to think about eating all foods, not just sugar-rich ones, in moderation. "It always comes down to a balance with healthy eating, all things in moderation and regular physical activity," she said.

Peter Flanagan, associate professor of medicine at Western, echoed Buklis thoughts. "You have to balance caloric intake with caloric output." He explained sugar was burned in the body before being converted to calories used for energy. Excess calories will lead to more fat in the body, he said, adding artificial sweeteners are beneficial because they do not contain calories.

Western chemistry professor James King said the body required sugar in one form or another, including carbohydrates. "[Artificial sweeteners] give us the taste of [sugar] without the dietary benefits," he said.

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