Pain can be easily subsided by administering sweet to children now has a scientific backing by researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center.
They have reported that the analgesic efficacy of sweet taste is influenced both by how much a child likes sweet taste and by the child's weight status. This appears in the Journal Pain.
"Some children like sweets not just because they taste good, but also because sweets make them feel good," says Julie Mennella, Ph.D. "This study further reveals that for
children, sweetness' effectiveness as an analgesic is related to liking for sweet taste and also to weight status."
In the study, sucrose preferences were determined for 198 children, ranging in age from 5 to 10 years, and their mothers. Children as a group preferred higher levels of sweetness than the adults, selecting a favorite sweetness concentration equivalent to adding 11 teaspoons of sugar to an 8-ounce glass of water. For comparison, an 8-ounce
serving of soda contains approximately 6 teaspoons of sugar.
The cold pressor test, was used to measure how long subjects were able to keep their hands in a cold water bath maintained at 50 degrees F (10 C). The cold pressor test was repeated twice, once with the subject holding a 24 percent sucrose solution in the mouth and again with water in the mouth.
In normal weight children, palliative properties of the sweet sucrose taste were related to the children's sweet preferences: sucrose reduced the experience of pain in children with higher sweet taste preferences, but not in children who preferred lower concentrations of sweetness.
Mennella comments, "This intriguing finding may reflect differences in brain chemistry systems. Additional studies clearly are needed to evaluate how dietary habits and individual differences contribute to preference for sweet taste in children and its physiological consequences."
"Even women who preferred high levels of sweetness similar to that selected by the majority of children did not evidence an analgesic response to sucrose. Thus, the lack of an analgesic response to sucrose during adulthood apparently is not due to the lowered sucrose preference observed in adults overall," states lead author Yanina Pepino, Ph.D.
"Children and adults differ with regard to a wide variety of physiological and endocrine
differences, and future studies should identify variables that promote or impede the ability of sweet taste to act as an analgesic in both children and adults."