"Over-consumption of sugar is widely believed to contribute to obesity and related health problems such as heart disease," said study lead author Paul Wise, sensory psychologist at Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia, US. The current study looked into whether a person's sweet taste perception and preference can be shifted by reducing the amount of sugar consumed in their diet.
Study participants were healthy adults who consumed two or more sugar or high fructose corn syrup-sweetened soft drinks per day. Following a one-month baseline period for all participants, a 'control' group of 16 participants maintained their normal diet and sugar intake over the next three months.
The sweet 'reduced-sugar' group of 13 participants was instructed to maintain their baseline caloric intake while replacing 40 percent of calories from sugars with fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates over the same time period.
After three months on the reduced sugar diet, the participants rated most puddings as sweeter than did individuals who were not sugar-restricted. A similar effect was seen for low concentrations of the beverages. Despite the difference in sweetness ratings, three months of sugar restriction did not influence the amount of sucrose most preferred in the pudding.
During the fifth month of the study, when all participants were allowed to choose their own diet, people who had been in the reduced-sugar group quickly increased their sugar intake to baseline levels. Similarly, their judgments of sweet taste intensity reverted to pre-diet levels.
"People who had been on a low-sugar diet for three months quickly went back to their previous sugar levels when given a choice. This rapid rebound suggests that people may resist changes in the sugar level of their diets," Wise noted.
The study was published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.