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How sweet it isn't -- preference for alternatives to sugar based on sour, bitter tastes

The most important factor in what kind of sweetener people prefer has little to do with how sweet it tastes. Rather, it has more to do with other tastes in the sweetener, such as bitterness or sourness, new research suggests.

Food scientists at Ohio State University asked 30 college students to rate 13 different sweeteners and sweet substances, including sugar, based on how much bitter, sour and metallic tastes they perceived with each substance. Many of these compounds are found in items such as diet soda, gum, candy and Jell-O, and some can be used for baking.

Not surprisingly, sugar was rated highest. Participants found sucralose (brand name Splenda), a sweetener derived from sugar, the most acceptable alternative to sugar. The researchers attribute this to a lack of noticeable sour and bitter tastes in this sweetener.

"So many sugar substitutes also have unpleasant tastes," said Jeannine Delwiche, a study co-author and an assistant professor of food science and technology at Ohio State University. "Understanding how people perceive these tastes may help create a sugar substitute that is more palatable. That ultimately means making tastier products with fewer calories."

"Sugar is the gold standard for companies that make artificial sweeteners," said Delwiche, who also directs Ohio State's Sensory Science Group. "But it's packed with calories. Most of these other substances have few to no calories."

Delwiche and study co-author Amanda Warnock, a former graduate student in food science at Ohio State, presented their findings March 28 in Atlanta at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The researchers asked the 30 panelists to rate the sweet, bitter, sour and metallic tastes that accompanied the 13 sweeteners and sweet substances. Each participant rinsed his or her mouth out thoroughly with water between tasting small samples of each compound. Most of the substances sampled in this study are already used
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Contact: Jeannine Delwiche
Delwiche.1@osu.edu
614-292-6281
Ohio State University
28-Mar-2006


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