Psychophysical Evaluation of Sweetness Functions Across Multiple Sweeteners

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Sweetness is one of the 5 prototypical tastes and is activated by sugars and non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS). The aim of this study was to investigate measures of sweet taste function [detection threshold (DT), recognition threshold (RT), and suprathreshold intensity ratings] across multiple sweeteners. Sixty participants, 18–52 years of age (mean age in years = 26, SD = ±7.8), were recruited to participate in the study. DT and RT were collected for caloric sweeteners (glucose, fructose, sucrose, erythritol) and NNS (sucralose, rebaudioside A). Sweetness intensity for all sweeteners was measured using a general Labeled Magnitude Scale. There were strong correlations between DT and RT of all 4 caloric sweeteners across people (r = 0.62–0.90, P < 0.001), and moderate correlations between DT and RT for both of the NNS (r = 0.39–0.48, P < 0.05); however, weaker correlations were observed between the DT or RT of the caloric sweeteners and NNS (r = 0.26–0.48, P < 0.05). The DT and RT of glucose and fructose were not correlated with DT or RT of sucralose (P > 0.05). In contrast, there were strong correlations between the sweetness intensity ratings of all sweeteners (r = 0.70–0.96, P < 0.001). This suggests those caloric sweeteners and NNS access at least partially independent mechanisms with respect to DT and RT measures. At suprathreshold level, however, the strong correlation between caloric sweeteners and NNS through weak, moderate, and strong intensity indicates a commonality in sweet taste mechanism for the perceived intensity range.

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