Individuals who completed a three-month low-sugar diet experienced no lasting change in their preferred levels of sweetness, although foods did taste sweeter to them, according to a recent study authored by researchers at the Monell Center that was published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In the study, participants who typically consumed two or more soft drinks sweetened with either sugar or high fructose corn syrup each day were asked either to maintain their normal diet or to replace 40% of their calories from sugars with fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates while maintaining their baseline caloric intake. After three months, both groups were asked to rate the sweet taste intensity and pleasantness of sweetened vanilla puddings and raspberry beverages. While the reduced-sugar group rated these as sweeter than did individuals who were not sugar-restricted, their stated preference for the level of sugar in these foods did not differ. In addition, after the three months, sugar-restricted participants quickly increased their sugar intake and perception of sweet taste intensity to prediet levels.
According to the Monell Center, these results differ from earlier studies focused on salt, which showed that people placed on a low-sodium diet came to prefer lower levels of salt in their food.
“The factors that underlie liking for sugar and salt may differ,” says study co-author Gary Beauchamp, a behavioral biologist at Monell. “The salt findings formed part of the rationale for the National Academy of Sciences’ recommendation to decrease salt consumption by gradually lowering the amount of salt in prepared and restaurant foods. Modern diets contain a large proportion of calories as sugar, but this same tactic may not work as well to help reduce the amount of sugar that people consume.”