Nutrition

DIETVegging Out

Rare is the 8-year-old child who loves broccoli and brussel sprouts. Even many adults who understand the benefits of a greens-filled diet find vegetables a necessary evil. But don't worry--you'll probably learn to love them in time.

According to Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D., director of the nutritional sciences program at the University of Washington, we develop a taste for healthful foods like fruits and vegetables as we grow older. Drewnowski recruited 329 women of varying ages and examined their eating habits, food preferences and sensitivity to a bitter substance called 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP). He found that women's diets were strongly influenced by age: The older women were, the more likely they were to profess a preference for green vegetables, yellow vegetables, salad vegetables and bitter fruit, and the less likely they were to crave sweet foods. Older subjects were also less sensitive to the PROP solution, which likely explains their greater affinity for rabbit food.

There's a good biological reason why our taste preferences change with age. "I suspect that changes in taste are in service of energy needs," says Drewnowski. "When you're younger and growing, you need to maximize energy. You need sugar and fat." As you become older and less active, however, your energy needs decline, leading you to prefer low-calorie foods like spinach and grapefruit.

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The odds may be against forcing you or your child to love vegetables. But don't shy away from making them more appealing by adding a little butter or sugar to them, advises Drewnowski. Not only does it make them taste better, he says, but many of the crucial fat-soluble antioxidants they contain are more readily extracted by the body when eaten with a little grease.

--Camille Chatterjee

PERSONALITY

You Are What You Eat

Forget eyes as the windows to the soul: Snack foods may really hold the key to a person's character. Alan Hirsch, M.D., a researcher at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, administered personality tests to 800 volunteers, then queried them about their snack preferences. The results, Hirsch believes, suggest that personality has a profound effect on our sensory interpretations of different foods. Here's what his study revealed about six popular snack foods and the people who love them:

o If you prefer potato chips, you're likely a successful high achiever.

o If you go for tortilla chips, you're probably a perfectionist.

o Pretzel people tend to be lively, energetic and crave novelty.

o Cracker lovers tenet to be contemplative, shy and nonconfrontational. They're also the type most likely to have an Internet romance.

o Crave cheese curls? You're probably conscientious and prepared.

o Meat snack lovers tend to be gregarious and social, loyal and trustworthy. However, they're also prone to rebound relationships.

Unfortunately, the word is still out on chocolate lovers.

--Linda Formichelli

WEIGHT LOSS

A Slim Supplement?

The supplement DHEA was much touted in the early 1990s as a natural fountain of youth, boosting the immune system, sharpening memory and provoking weight loss. But rumors of side effects made it a supplement to avoid. Now, a derivative of the hormone has been shown to assist safely in weight loss.

Unlike DHEA, 7-Keto does not convert into the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, which cause potentially dangerous side effects. In John Zenk, M.D.'s recent study of the supplement, published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online, he found that subjects taking 7-Keto as a weight loss aid lost four more pounds on average than the control group.

Zenk believes that, unlike most weight loss drugs, which act as stimulants, 7-Keto safely heightens thyroid activity, which increases metabolism. Of course, no weight loss supplement should be used without proper nutrition and regular exercise; all subjects in the study used 7-Keto in addition to a healthful diet and physical activity.

--Camille Chatterjee

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