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J Nutr. 2012 Jun;142(6):1142S-8S. doi: 10.3945/jn.111.149575. Epub 2012 May 9.

Sweetness and food preference.

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The University of Washington, Nutritional Sciences Program, Seattle, WA, USA.


Human desire for sweet taste spans all ages, races, and cultures. Throughout evolution, sweetness has had a role in human nutrition, helping to orient feeding behavior toward foods providing both energy and essential nutrients. Infants and young children in particular base many of their food choices on familiarity and sweet taste. The low cost and ready availability of energy-containing sweeteners in the food supply has led to concerns that the rising consumption of added sugars is the driving force behind the obesity epidemic. Low-calorie sweeteners are one option for maintaining sweet taste while reducing the energy content of children's diets. However, their use has led to further concerns that dissociating sweetness from energy may disrupt the balance between taste response, appetite, and consumption patterns, especially during development. Further studies, preferably based on longitudinal cohorts, are needed to clarify the developmental trajectory of taste responses to low-calorie sweeteners and their potential impact on the diet quality of children and youth.

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