Taste hedonics drive food choices, and food choices affect weight maintenance. Despite this, the idea that hyper-palatability of sweet foods is linked to obesity development has been controversial for decades. Here, we investigate whether interpersonal differences in sweet-liking are related to body composition. Healthy adults aged 18–34 years from the UK (n = 148) and the US (n = 126) completed laboratory-based sensory tests (sucrose taste tests) and anthropometric measures (body mass index; BMI, body fat; fat-free mass; FFM, waist/hips circumferences). Habitual beverage intake and lifestyle and behavioural characteristics were also assessed. Using hierarchical cluster analysis, we classified participants into three phenotypes: sweet liker (SL), sweet disliker (SD), and inverted-U (liking for moderate sweetness). Being a SD was linked to higher body fat among those younger than 21 years old, while in the older group, SLs had the highest BMI and FFM; age groups reflected different levels of exposure to the obesogenic environment. FFM emerged as a better predictor of sweet-liking than BMI and body fat. In the older group, sweetened beverage intake partially explained the phenotype–anthropometry associations. Collectively, our findings implicate underlying energy needs as an explanation for the variation in sweet-liking; the moderating roles of age and obesogenic environment require additional consideration.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Nutrition and Dietetics