Published on Nov. 23, 2017

Too Sweet Or Not Too Sweet?

The Big Thanksgiving Debate



Thanksgiving is here. Which means it’s time to loosen those belts by a notch or two, or for the truly dedicated, to bust out the elastic waistbands. Yes, ‘tis the season for ritual gluttony on a mass scale. And while we should all at least make an attempt at “moderation,” the reality is that most of us won’t, and that’s ok. It is the holidays after all…

Thanksgiving brings with it an annual autumn cornucopia of culinary creations that basically dares us not to overindulge. White meat, dark meat, drumsticks, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casseroles, mac and cheese, pumpkin pie, apple pie, cherry pie, pecan pie….so many pies...it’s impossible to even talk about this feast without making myself ravenous.

So it’s not a question of if we’re going to overeat, so much as a question of what we’re going to overeat. The one problem we each face is the mismatch between our infinite holiday appetite and our limited internal capacity.

We all have to choose…

In my view, there are two types of people in this world: those who leave room for dessert, and those who don’t.

I don’t.

You see, I’m missing what you would call a sweet tooth. Even as a kid, I always preferred a second helping of the turkey and mashed potatoes to a big plate of pumpkin or apple pie. As an adult, I much prefer a second - or third- glass of wine, or else a nice scotch, to a decadent sugar-laden indulgence to finish the holiday meal.

I always tried to attribute this preference to my indomitable willpower. Alas, this is just not the reality. According to my Health Action Plan, I have a variation of the gene that helps detect the sweetness in foods that makes me more sensitive to sweetness, which in turn makes me crave it less. This gene is called the TAS1R2 gene. If I had the other variation, then I would be less sensitive and wouldn’t find sweet foods as overwhelmingly rich as I do, and would therefore eat more of them. I didn’t get my first cavity until I was in my mid-twenties, and that had more to do with me slacking on my biannual cleanings than it did with a change in my sugar intake.

My brother on the other hand, well, I’m going to go ahead and bet that he has the TAS1R2 gene variation that makes him less sensitive to sweets. Thinking about it in these terms, I’m not even sure he can detect sweetness at all. I still have images of him sitting on the couch with an apple pie and a fork. Like, the whole pie. In the tin. He wasn’t finished until he licked it clean. Thank goodness for little league sports or we’d have had to wheel him around to get him places.

As you gather around the holiday table with your family this year to give thanks and spend quality time together, look around and see if you can spot what your relatives’ preferences are. If you’re like me, you may already know. How else do you figure out who you’re competing against for the last piece of dark meat?

Also, try to notice which flavors really stand out for you.

Do you love the sweet tang of your uncle’s cranberry sauce?

Do you prefer to drown everything in mom’s rich, salty gravy? Or do you let the creamy mash potatoes shine on their own?

Or, are you like my brother? Do you save most of his work for when the desserts make their entrance?

Though there is no substitute for the accuracy of a DNA test, it is always fun to guess. The heaping variety of different flavors available during this holiday feast can give you some great clues as to how your genes are coded. So take advantage of the opportunity and play around with all the assorted tastes laid out on your decadent holiday spread.

Is it sweet that is your sweetheart?

Or does salty satisfy your stomach?

How about sour?

Could it be creamy?

But what about bitter?

See what you can find out about yourself.

Diet plays such an integral role in your pursuit of wellness, that it would be a huge mistake to attempt to optimize your nutrition without first understanding what your individual flavor profiles say about what foods you gravitate towards at the genetic level.

I for one have to watch out for salty foods so that they don’t cause me literal heartache down the road. My brother, well, he’s on the fast train to cavity town if he keeps indulging that sweet tooth without staying super vigilant about his dental care.

Remember, it’s not about fighting your nature, it’s about nurturing it. Knowledge is power, and that can make all the difference when it comes to making positive lifestyle changes that will help you realize your healthiest self.


Want to learn more about what you can do to give yourself even more to be thankful for? Head on over to Toolbox Genomics and order your Health Action Plan today!

Want to learn more? Check out our other blog posts here.

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