USDA Funds $25K Study on Whether Kids’ Preference for Fat, Sugar Leads to Obesity

July 19, 2013 - 10:06 AM

Food-Twinkies No More

This 2003 file photo originally released by Interstate Bakeries Corporation shows Twinkies cream-filled snack cakes. (AP Photo/Interstate Bakeries Corporation via PRNewsFoto)

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding a study to determine if “preference for fat and sugar may have a role in overweight and obesity development” among African-American adolescents in Alabama.

The department announced the $25,000 grant to Tuskegee University in Tuskeegee, Ala., in April.

“This project will document taste preferences for fat and sweet foods in African American adolescents and enhance the research infrastructure and capacity in obesity, food product development and sensory evaluation research at Tuskegee University,” the USDA press release from April 2, 2013 said.

The project description from Tuskegee focused on “upgrading a computerized data collection and analysis system for sensory response in obesity and food product development.”

“Alabama ranks sixth nationwide with 36.1% of its children, ages 10-17 years, falling into the obese category,” the project summary said. “Increased preference for fat and sugar may have a role in overweight and obesity development.”

The study will evaluate taste preferences for African-American children in selected Alabama counties ranging in ages 12 to 17.

“It is hypothesized that a preference for fat and sweet foods would predict weight gain among African Americans,” the project description said.

The children will be recruited for the study through advertisements.

“Firstly, participants will be presented with randomly ordered solutions such as non-fat milk, whole milk, half and half, and cream containing different levels of sugar by weight,” the project description said. “Participants will rate the foods for sweetness, creaminess, and pleasantness using a 9-point hedonic scale.”

“Secondly, participants will also be asked to give lists of their favorite foods,” the description continued. “Foods will be grouped into high-fat, high-sugar, high carbohydrate, high protein categories, and participants will indicate their preferences using the 9-point hedonic scale.”

The project description said that the main objective is to “develop a community based, nutrition education program with and specifically for rural southern African Americans to prevent weight gain and decrease cancer risks” and “to investigate relationships between dietary patterns and markers for cancer risks among these children. Participants will be invited to volunteer for the preference testing before and upon completion of the study.”