Send to

Choose Destination
Chem Senses. 2015 Jan;40(1):17-25. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bju053. Epub 2014 Nov 6.

"A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down": bitter masking by sucrose among children and adults.

Author information

Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Sweeteners are often added to liquid formulations of drugs but whether they merely make them better tasting or actually reduce the perception of bitterness remains unknown. In a group of children and adults, we determined whether adding sucrose to urea, caffeine, denatonium benzoate, propylthiouracil (PROP), and quinine would reduce their bitterness using a forced-choice method of paired comparisons. To better understand individual differences, adults also rated each solution using a more complex test (general Labeled Magnitude Scale [gLMS]) and were genotyped for the sweet taste receptor gene TAS1R3 and the bitter receptor TAS2R38. Sucrose suppressed the bitterness of each agent in children and adults. In adults, sucrose was effective in reducing the bitterness ratings from moderate to weak for all compounds tested, but those with the sensitive form of the sweet receptor reported greater reduction for caffeine and quinine. For PROP, sucrose was most effective for those who were genetically the most sensitive, although this did not attain statistical significance. Not only is the paired comparison method a valid tool to study how sucrose improves the taste of pediatric medicines among children but knowledge gleaned from basic research in bitter taste and how to alleviate it remains an important public health priority.


TAS1R3; bitter taste; children; psychophysics; sucrose

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Silverchair Information Systems Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center