Sugary drinks dull taste buds

Friday, 10 June 2011 2:52 PM

Overweight and obese people have dulled taste buds and sub-consciously crave sweet foods, researchers have discovered.

Academics at the universities of Bristol and Bangor have shown for the first time that overweight and obese people have a dulled sensitivity to the sweetness of soft drinks, but an enhanced subconscious liking of sweet food.

And, even if people are not overweight, drinking two sugary drinks a day for just four weeks is sufficient to both dull sensitivity to the taste sensation, and increase preference for sweeter tastes, particularly in people who did not already have a 'sweet tooth'.

Researchers say as the sweet 'treat' becomes less rewarding, people tend to look for more sweet food or drink and a vicious circle of eating sweet and calorie-laden food is established.

They warn that children who are thirsty should be given water to drink, rather than anything else. So-called healthy options such as fruit cordial or 'squash' and natural fruit juice are also laden with sugar. Along with carbonated drinks they are all too high in sugar and too sweet.

Dr Hans-Peter Kubis at the University of Bangor's School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, who led the study, said: "This has serious implications for public health. This research shows how little sweet food stuffs are required to actually change your taste perceptions and how powerful sweet tasting products are.

"We are heading for a multi-level health disaster with rising obesity levels and the increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes."

Dr Lucy Donaldson at the University of Bristol's School of Physiology and Pharmacology, said: "We have known for some time that the way that we perceive different tastes can change under different circumstances. This finding, that a couple of sweet drinks a day over a short time can dramatically change taste, was a real surprise."

The results were based on experiments carried out by the two universities.

In the trial, lean and obese people were asked to rate their perception of and enjoyment of sweet and salty tastes.

The initial trial showed that overweight and obese participants actually rated identical drinks as being less sweet in their perception, than that of the lean participants.

In further experiments they tested the subconscious preference for sweet food with a computer based test finding that overweight and obese participants had a stronger preference for sweet than lean.

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