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Physiol Behav. 2016 Oct 1;164(Pt B):432-437. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.05.007. Epub 2016 May 9.

Why do we like sweet taste: A bitter tale?

Author information

1
Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, United States. Electronic address: beauchamp@monell.org.

Abstract

Sweet is widely considered to be one of a small number of basic or primary taste qualities. Liking for sweet tasting substances is innate, although postnatal experiences can shape responses. The power of sweet taste to induce consumption and to motivate behavior is profound, suggesting the importance of this sense for many species. Most investigators presume that the ability to identify sweet molecules through the sense of taste evolved to allow organisms to detect sources of readily available glucose from plants. Perhaps the best evidence supporting this presumption are recent discoveries in comparative biology demonstrating that species in the order Carnivora that do not consume plants also do not perceive sweet taste due to the pseudogenization of a component of the primary sweet taste receptor. However, arguing against this idea is the observation that the sweetness of a plant, or the amount of easily metabolizable sugars contained in the plant, provides little quantitative indication of the plant's energy or broadly conceived food value. Here it is suggested that the perceptual ratio of sweet taste to bitter taste (a signal for toxicity) may be a better gauge of a plant's broadly conceived food value than sweetness alone and that it is this ratio that helps guide selection or rejection of a potential plant food.

KEYWORDS:

Bitter; Energy; Glucose; Sweet; Toxicity

PMID:
27174610
PMCID:
PMC5003684
DOI:
10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.05.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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