Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2014 Dec 31;9(12):e115113. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115113. eCollection 2014.

Can children discriminate sugar-sweetened from non-nutritively sweetened beverages and how do they like them?

Author information

Department of Health Sciences, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



Replacement of sugar-sweetened by non-nutritively sweetened beverages or water may reduce excess weight gain in children. However, it is unclear whether children like non-nutritively sweetened beverages as much as sugar-sweetened beverages. We examined whether children could taste a difference between non-nutritively sweetened beverages and matching sugar-sweetened beverages, and which of the two types of beverage they liked best.


89 children aged 5 to 12 tasted seven non-nutritively sweetened beverages and matching sugar-sweetened beverages, for a total of 14 beverages. We used Triangle tests to check their ability to discriminate between the matched versions, and a 5-point scale to measure how much the children liked each individual beverage.


Overall, 24% of children appeared to be genuinely capable of distinguishing between non-nutritively sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages. The mean ± SD score for how much the children liked the non-nutritively sweetened beverages was 3.39 ± 0.7 and that for the sugar-sweetened beverages 3.39 ± 0.6 (P = 0.9) on a scale running from 1 (disgusting) to 5 (delicious). The children preferred some beverages to others irrespective of whether they were sugar-sweetened or non-nutritively sweetened (P = 0.000). Children who correctly identified which of three drinks contained the same sweetener and which one was different also showed no preference for either type.


We found that about one in four children were able to discriminate between non-nutritively sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages but children liked both varieties equally. Non-nutritively sweetened beverages may therefore be an acceptable alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages although water remains the healthiest beverage for children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center