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Research Updates | Taste

Reduced dietary intake of simple sugars alters perceived sweet taste intensity but not perceived pleasantness

28 / 01 / 16

This study aimed to answer the question: do people following a low sugar diet come to prefer less sugar over time, similar to salt (sodium)?

The experimental group (N=16) were given a low sugar diet (reduced usual intake of energy from simple sugars by 40%) for three months, and then along with the matched control group (N=17) were asked to rate the sweetness intensity and pleasantness of vanilla puddings and raspberry beverages that varied in sugar concentration. Added sugars were not replaced with non-nutritive sweeteners, but with extra starch, protein or fat.

During the second month, the low-sugar diet group rated low sugar puddings as sweeter than the control group. During the third month the low sugar diet group rated both high and low sugar puddings as 40% sweeter than the control group. The mechanism behind this effect is not clear. The same effect was found with beverages, albeit weaker, suggesting a difference between liquids and solid foods. Interestingly, pleasantness rating was not affected and the researchers question the impact on food choices without this hedonic effect.

Although this study was small, it suggests that like salt, people can get used to eating foods and drinks that are less sweet in around two months but questions remain whether this is enough to influence eating behaviour over the long term.