Sweet Preferences and Overall Diet

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About
What effects do our preferences for sweetness have on our diet? When asked to eat until they are comfortably full, most people will consume much greater quantities of sweet foods than savory or salty ones. This phenomenon appears to have more to do with the taste, rather than a need for the energy that a sweetener might provide, since it occurs even if we use sweeteners that do not provide calories. In fact, in modern Western diets, sweet taste and energy consumption have been increasingly decoupled. Because it is so innately rewarding, sweetness does not always need to be accompanied by calories for it to be pleasurable or influence food consumption. It is the quality of sweetness itself that our bodies respond to, since its meaning has previously been unambiguous. Hence, sweet tastes can exert effects on palatability and consumption in the absence of any effect sweetness has on our metabolism. This fact has an upside in terms of its effects on calories consumed. Dieters who eat foods that are sweet—but without calories (for example, sweetened with aspartame)—are better able to comply with their diets and lose weight.