Your brain may have its own sweet tooth, driving a taste for treats that can ultimately lead to long-term weight gain that might not be healthy.

That’s among new studies getting attention for what they show about family life and health.

Here are three studies of note:

Your brain may have a ‘sweet taste preference’

Scientists know that liking sweets may lead to weight gain, but why do you like sweets?

A Harvard-led study published in the Elsevier journal Physiology & Behavior tested the theory that increased preference for sweets is linked to increased activity in the hypothalamus of the brain, which is home to “an abundant expression or sweet taste receptors that play a role in glucose sensing and energy homeostasis.” In other words, those receptors like glucose and use it to regulate energy.

Glucose is believed to be a “neutral marker” for weight gain risk. The researchers wanted to know if sweet taste preference is linked to more hypothalamic response to glucose and to more long-term increases in body mass index.

They looked at 54 adults ages 18-34, measuring their height and weight at the beginning. They took the measurements again between six months and a year later for 36 of the study participants. They also looked at sweet taste preference.

Then they used magnetic resonance imaging before and after the subjects ate glucose to see the blood flow response in that part of the brain.

The study showed both increased blood flow in that part of the brain associated with eating glucose and a “positive association between sweet taste preference and longitudinal change” in body mass index, adjusting for age, sex and body mass index, or BMI.

They concluded that those whose brains have a sweet tooth may be more susceptible to gaining weight.

Fermented dairy products might reduce lung cancer risk

Another Elsevier study, this one in the journal Clinical Nutrition ESPEN led by researchers from Oregon State University, found that consuming fermented dairy products like yogurt and sour cream could reduce the risk of lung cancer. Using data from 101,809 individuals taking part in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Screening trial, nearly 1,600 cases of lung cancer were found. Those participants filled out a validated diet history survey, then were followed for 13 years.

Total dairy intake wasn’t associated with lung cancer risk in the study when the quartile with the highest dairy intake and the lowest were compared, though preference for whole milk as a beverage might slightly raise the likelihood of lung cancer compared to consuming low-fat milk.

But consuming fermented dairy appeared to be somewhat protective, “mostly observed among heavy smokers,” according to an Elsevier release.

Fetal deaths and infant homicides

The number of fetal deaths after at least 20 weeks gestation in the United States grew by 1% from 2020 to 2021, increasing from 20,854 to 21,105, according to the National Center for Health Statistics within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That meant the fetal mortality rate in 2021 was 5.73 per 1,000 live births. The only significant change by race was a 4% decrease for Black women. The rate was highest for females under age 15 (13.14 per 1,000) and lowest for women ages 30-34 (5.13 per 1,000).

According to the report, women smoking while they were pregnant had almost double the fetal mortality rate of those who did not.

The center also released data on infant homicides, noting that the rate for infants between 2017 and 2020 was 7.11 per 100,000 births.

Between 2017 and 2020, 1,067 infant homicides took place, an average of 267 a year.

More male babies were killed than female babies. And the report noted that the rate of homicide was “four times higher for infants of mothers born in the U.S. (8.51) than for infants of mothers born outside the U.S. (2.10).”