Friday, 22 February 2013

A sprayful of sugar helps the vegetables go down

Continuing the vegetable theme from the last post (and I should have more cabbage-related posts), the Science podcast this week had an interesting method for encouraging kids to eat their greens. It seems that the solution is to use a sugar spray on vegetables to mask their bitterness, to which children are apparently more sensitive. Valerie Duffy from the University of Connecticut presented the findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting, Multi-Level Interventions To Improve Vegetable Consumption in Children. As reported in the ScienceNOW section of the Science Magazine website, A Little Sugar Helps the Broccoli Go Down:
"Bitterness can be minimized in several ways. Even a small amount of sugar spooned into a cup of coffee, for example, will send a strong signal to the brain. Salt blocks the sensation in the mouth, as does acidity. Fat coats the taste buds and prevents the offending molecules from reaching them; that's one reason salad dressings are popular around the world. Duffy and several colleagues conducted a laboratory study of some of these approaches in 37 adults. When the volunteers munched on asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and kale, sweetness was most effective at increasing the appeal of the vegetables. And only sugar was able to change the opinion of people who hadn't liked Brussels sprouts or kale".
It's about getting kids to develop a taste for vegetables that they then carry with them through later life, and the amount of sugar needed does not really make it a concern:
"All that's needed is a fraction of a teaspoon, just enough to balance the bitterness. In addition, after the kids have eaten the sweetened vegetables a few times, sugar can be eliminated and they will continue liking the vegetables, according to studies published by other researchers"
Following the recent horse-meat scandal in Europe, I am thinking that anything that encourages people to eat more fresh vegetables rather than processed junk has got to be a good thing.

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