Relationship Between Sensory Liking for Fat, Sweet or Salt and Cardiometabolic Diseases: Mediating Effects of Diet and Weight Status

CITATION & LINK: Eur J Nutr. 2020; 59(1):249-261

AUTHORS: Aurelie Lampuré , Solia Adriouch, Katia Castetbon, Amelie Deglaire, Pascal Schlich, Sandrine Péneau, Leopold Fezeu, Serge Hercberg, Caroline Méjean

REVIEWER: Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN


  • To investigate the prospective association between individual liking for fat-and-salt, fat-and-sweet, sweet or salt and the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), type 2 diabetes, and hypertension and the mediating effect of dietary intake and weight status on the relationship between sensory liking and these cardiometabolic diseases (CMDs).


  • Sensory liking of fat has already been strongly associated with higher intake of dietary fat and a lower intake of nutrient-dense foods leading to increased risk of weight gain and obesity.
  • No study has investigated how overall dietary intake and body mass index (BMI) might serve as potential mediators in the relationship between high liking for fat, sweet or salt and the risk of CMDs (defined as hypertension, diabetes, and CVDs in the present study).


  • Data was collected from a cohort of the large web-based observational NutriNet-Sante study launched in France in 2009 with a 10 year follow-up. That study was designed to investigate the relationship between nutrition and health and determinants of dietary behavior and nutritional status.
  • Participants in the cohort were selected from subjects who completed the PrefQuest questionnaire to assess liking for fat-and-salt, fat-and-sweet, sweet and salt and provided the required self-reported health information.  
  • During the six years of the study participants completed yearly questionnaires on health status, physical activity, height and weight, socio-economic conditions, lifestyle, and randomly assigned 24-hour food intake records.
  • Cox proportional hazard models were used to calculate hazard ratios and confidence intervals for the associations between sensory liking scores and risks for CMDs risk and the mediating effect of diet and BMI.


  • Sensory liking for fat-and-salt was associated with an increased risk of CVD, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Diet and BMI substantially explained this relationship.
  • Liking for fat-and-sweet and for salt were associated with an increased risk of diabetes, mainly explained by diet and BMI.
  • Sweet liking was associated with a decreased risk of diabetes suggesting that the increased risk of diabetes seen in those with a liking for fat-and-sweet was more strongly associated with the fatty component.
  • No relationship was found between liking for fat-and-sweet, sweet and salt and the incidence of CVD and hypertension.


  • The increased risk of CMDs in those with increased liking for fat-and-salt can be explained by unhealthy food choices and higher BMIs. Having knowledge of individual sensory liking can guide the preventive measures offered by practitioners to help lower these risks and allow practitioners to provide more effective dietary counseling that supports individual food preferences.


  • The finding that a liking for sweet taste was associated with a decreased risk of diabetes and not associated with CVD or hypertension risks may indicate a healthier dietary intake from foods providing natural sweetness, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
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