Crave Sweets? It’s Not Because of Low-Calorie Sweeteners

ATLANTA (October 9, 2012) — What determines what you like to eat?  According to a new article, “Sweetness and Food Preferences” by Drewnowski et al published in May 2012 Journal of Nutrition, several factors come together to shape sweetness and food preferences. Researchers found that biological, environmental, parental, and social influences all contribute to what a child likes and wants to eat, and that these preferences can be observed very early in the developmental process.

The authors note that research on the preference for sweet taste suggests preferences are innate and can appear even before birth. For example, newborns can distinguish between varying degrees of sweetness and will consume more of a solution if it is sweeter. These innate preferences eventually are affected by the environment, more specifically by exposure. Exposure to food serves as one of the best predictors of food choice and preference. However, Drewnowski et al noted that, “there are no compelling data to suggest that such repeated exposure to a [sweetened] beverage leads to a heightened hedonic response to sweetness in general.  They also noted that “sweet taste alone was not sufficient to predict food preference.  Rather, it was the pairing of sweet taste with dietary energy that was necessary to facilitate preference and liking.”

Drewnowski et al presented research which has shown that preferences for sweetness also vary with time. In a laboratory-based experiment, younger children preferred more concentrated sugar solutions when compared to adolescents and adults, and adolescents preferred more concentrated sugar solutions when compared to adults. Thus, as the authors pointed out, “the liking of sweet foods and beverages is not solely a product of modern-day technology and advertising but also reflects the basic biology of children.” Sweetness preference may also vary within the course of a meal. Preferences for sweetness have been reported to be higher before a meal, than after a meal. This may be due to the fact that intake of sugar leads to satiety. In other words the more sugar one consumes, the less appealing it becomes.


Drewnowski et al noted that “no strong clinical evidence currently exists to suggest an association between children’s weight outcome and their consumption of low-calorie sweeteners (LCS).  A recent systematic review investigating the metabolic effects of low-calorie sweeteners in youth reviewed 18 studies and concluded that laboratory studies of immediate effects of LCS do not support that their ingestion results in increased energy intake.” With the rise in obesity, swapping energy-dense sweeteners with lower calorie options may help individuals manage their weight while still consuming the foods that they love.

The full article by Drewnowski et al can be found by clicking here.

faq2Do you have questions about low-calorie sweeteners? Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? You asked and we listened. Our resident Registered Dietitians answered the most popular questions about low-calorie sweeteners.