Sweets, Smokes & Alcohol

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A recent study published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research by Yanina Pepino, Ph.D., and Julie A. Mennella, Ph.D., of Monell Chemical Senses Center, reveals an interesting relationship between smoking, family history of alcoholism, and a taste for sweets among women. According to the study, women with a family history of alcoholism have an increased desire for sweets. Conversely, women who are smokers seem to have a decreased preference for sweets; this may be a result of decreased sensitivity of taste buds due to smoking. Additionally, it is not at all unlikely for women who drink alcohol to smoke as well; there is a strong association between alcohol and smoking.

The study shows potential for practical application in identifying risk for alcoholism. However, “Longitudinal studies . . . are needed to determine whether sweet taste thresholds and preferences could serve as a marker for those more vulnerable to develop addictions,” according to the researchers. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:

They evaluated 49 women to try to reconcile the long-recognized effect that smoking has on sweet taste with the evidence linking a family history of alcoholism — irrespective of smoking status — to increased food cravings and preferences, particularly sweets.

Smokers had decreased sensitivity for sweet taste, whereas women with a family history of alcoholism had heightened sweet preferences, M. Yanina Pepino, Ph.D., and Julie A. Mennella, Ph.D., of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, reported in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The rationale for their research is that smoking-related diseases tend to be worse in women–more advanced, more resistant to treatment, and more fatal. So the researchers were interested in exploring the link between tobacco and taste.

Tobacco and alcohol have a strong comorbid association, the authors noted. However, little is known about the combined effects of the two substances on sweet taste.

The investigators wanted to find out which factor seems to predominate in its influence of women’s sweet taste — tobacco or a positive family history. They concluded that it’s the family history.

Click here to read the entire article from Medpage Today

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