Our appetite for sweetness is complex and influenced by multiple factors, say leading european experts

Posted: 01 May 2015

Prague, 8 May 2015: Our innate desire for sweet taste, our genetic predisposition, our liking and wanting for sweetness, and the subsequent effects on satiety, appetite, and weight management, were just some of the key points raised by a panel of leading multidisciplinary experts at a symposium on 'Sweetness in everyday life: a scientific review of our appetite for sweet taste and the effect on weight management' hosted by the International Sweeteners Association (ISA), as part of the 22nd European Obesity Conference, in Prague. Dr Graham Finlayson, Faculty of Psychology, University of Leeds, facilitated the debate which brought together participants from across the globe in the fields of academia, science, and healthcare, with a like-minded motivation to better understand and address the triggers linked to obesity, in the context of the current health debate.

Dr France Bellisle, from the University Paris 13, shared the outcome from her latest sweet taste literature review which spans over 30 years of scientific research, and explores sweet taste in everyday life, and the usefulness of low calorie sweeteners for people concerned about weight management. “Evidence suggests that low calorie sweeteners do not increase the appetite for sweetness, and that people who include low calorie sweeteners in their diet are actually less likely to over-consume sugary foods”, according to Dr France Bellisle, who also added that “sound and converging data show that appetite for sweet tasting products might be reduced in users of low calorie sweeteners”.

Presenting some initial key findings from her latest collaborative research on the response to sweetness relative to demographics and BMI conducted on twin populations (British and Finnish), Prof Hely Tuorila from the University of Helsinki, highlighted that they found “clear gender differences in liking for sweet products in young adults among the Finnish twin population”, adding that “naturally sweet fruits, berries and fruit juice are highly liked by both genders and all age groups, but they do not satisfy craving for sweet”

Talking on the subject of sweet taste in the context of the hedonic impact and control over food intake, Dr Graham Finlayson highlights two separate actions, sensory and nutritional, when reflected in our “liking” and “wanting” for sweet food. “The relationship between sweetness and satiety is complex and time dependent… Overall people are good at estimating their liking for sweet food, but poor at knowing their wanting for it.” says Dr Graham Finlayson, adding: “for some individuals (susceptible to obesity) exposure to sweet caloric food has the capacity to exert effects after consumption via hedonic food wanting and appetite”.

Conclusions confirmed that multiple factors influence a consumers’ choice for sweet tasting products. Environmental, genetic and psychological triggers play a key role in stimulating their intake, and can have a subsequent effect on weight management. In an increasingly challenging world, research which allows healthcare professionals to provide a more personalized approach in helping people with weight related issues, is paramount. By providing sweetness without the calories, low calorie sweetened options can make a useful contribution in empowering people to make smart swaps and help them achieve a more balanced lifestyle.

A more in depth review of this session will soon be available on the ISA website which you can access by clicking here.