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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

1
Department of Health Sciences, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

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.

METHODS:

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.

RESULTS:

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.

CONCLUSION:

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.

PMID:
25551758
PMCID:
PMC4281215
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0115113
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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