Revisiting Sugar–Fat Mixtures: Sweetness and Creaminess Vary with Phenotypic Markers of Oral Sensation

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Abstract

Genetic variation in oral sensation presumably influences ingestive behaviors through sensations arising from foods and beverages. Here, we investigated the influence of taste phenotype [6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) bitterness, fungiform papillae (FP) density] on sweet and creamy sensations from sugar/fat mixtures. Seventy-nine subjects (43 males) reported the sweetness and creaminess of water or milk (skim, whole, heavy cream) varying in sucrose (0–20% w/v) on the general Labeled Magnitude Scale. Sweetness grew with sucrose concentration and when shifting from water to milk mixtures—the growth was greatest for those tasting PROP as most bitter. At higher sucrose levels, increasing fat blunted the PROP–sweet relationship, whereas at lower levels, the relationship was effectively eliminated. Perceived sweetness of the mixture exceeded that predicted from the sum of components at low sucrose concentrations (especially for those tasting PROP most bitter) but fell below predicted at high concentrations, irrespective of fat level. Creaminess increased greatly with fat level and somewhat with sucrose. Those tasting PROP most bitter perceived greater creaminess in the heavy cream across all sucrose levels. Perceived creaminess was somewhat lower than predicted, irrespective of PROP bitterness. The FP density generally showed similar effects as PROP on sweetness and creaminess, (but to a lesser degree) and revealed potential taste–somatosensory interactions in weakly sweet stimuli. These data support that taste phenotype affects the nature of enhancement or suppression of sweetness and creaminess in liquid fat/sugar mixtures. Taste phenotype effects on sweetness and creaminess likely involve differential taste, retronasal olfactory, and somatosensory contributions to these perceptual experiences.

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