Taste Perception and Implicit Attitude Toward Sweet Related to Body Mass Index and Soft Drink Supplementation
Between 1966 and 2003, the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and glucose syrup through beverages increased more than 11-fold in the United States. Because soft drinks now account for almost 50% of the added sugars present in U.S. diets, understand the broad range of physiological impacts that these beverages have on their consumers is essential.
A research report in the journal Appetite, “Taste Perception and Implicit Attitude Toward Sweet Related to Body Mass Index and Soft Drink Supplementation,” looked at the results of two studies on the impacts of sugary drink consumption on taste preferences and attitudes. In the first study, 34 adults of with a variety of BMI numbers took a taste test of sugary and sucrose-rich substances. In the second, 32 subjects added the equivalent of two sugary drinks per day to their usual diet over a four-week period to test the effect on taste perceptions and preferences.
The findings include:
- In the first study, overweight or obese subjects reported that samples were 23% less sweet than normal-weight subjects did. Overall, heavier participants had twice the attraction to sweet substances than their normal-weight counterparts.
- Over the course of the second study, subjects naturally changed their diets, increasing carbohydrate intake by 12% and decreasing fats by 10% and protein by 2%.
- Participants in the second study had altered “intensity” and “pleasantness” taste perceptions; by the study’s end, those who do not initially like sweet tastes reported liking them more.
- Because sugary drinks enhance individuals’ preference for sweets, sugar consumption can lead to a “vicious circle” because taste is a primary determinant in food choice and “its alteration has a direct effect on eating behavior.”
The report’s authors note that the preference of sweets by heavier subjects may originate from genetic and environmental factors, but based on the second study, they theorize that “chronic soft drink consumption changes taste and food preference, therefore it could be one of the environmental factors leading to obesity.”
Tags: obesity, nutrition, consumer affairs
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
- Summarize the report in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the report's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the report's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the report's data or research design?)
Read the report-related Guardian article titled "Two Sugary Drinks a Day Can Dull Taste Buds, Study Claims."
- Reporter's use of the report: Evaluate what the reporter chose to include and exclude from the report. Would the audience have acquired a clear understanding of the report's findings and limits from this article?
- Reporter's use of other material: Assess the material in the article that is not derived from the report. (for example: Does the reporter place the report in the context of other research and to what effect? Does the reporter include reactions to the report from other researchers or interested parties [e.g., political groups business leaders, or community members] and are their credentials or possible biases made clear?)
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the report.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the report. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the report but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the report alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the report in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the report incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.