Effects of reducing added sugar in sugar-sweetened sodas on sweet taste perception
The prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes has increased worldwide over the last decades. Sugar-sweetened beverages are especially problematic in the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Although the proportion of Americans consuming SSB regularly has been steadily declining, added sugar intake still remains above recommendations by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and World Health Organization. However, alternatives to SSB exist on the market. For many years, the primary alternatives to SSB were low-calorie sweetened beverages, with sweetness replacers such as aspartame or sucralose. In recent years, options that are less sweet or unsweetened (instead of alternatively sweetened) have become increasingly available. These less-sweet beverages are available in similar packaging and at similar cost as SSB. Thus, these less-sweet beverages may be ideal options to reduce added sugar in the diet. However, few studies have tested switching consumers from SSB to less-sweet beverages (rather than low-calorie sweetened beverages or plain water), and thus the acceptability and implications of this dietary change are minimally documented. In this work, we tested less sweet soda-like beverages and unsweetened sparkling waters for potential to replace SSB. First, we showed that small reductions in sweetness in cola-flavored sodas are noticeable to individuals, meaning that any switch from SSB to less-sweet options will likely need to be overt to the consumer. Next, we conducted a 12-week intervention with adolescents, which showed that replacing SSBs with unsweetened sparkling waters leads to increased liking of less-sweet sodas and shifts in the ideal level of sweetness towards lower sugar concentrations. Building on these results, our final study shows that even just 2 weeks is enough time to induce these changes in acceptance of less sweetness in sodas, if a consumer prefers the higher concentrations of sugar at the beginning of the intervention (a “sweet liker”). Future studies are needed to evaluate how replacing SSB with less sweet options, leading to shifts in sweetness preference, might influence overall diet and risks for diet-related chronic diseases.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- Nutrition Science
- West Lafayette