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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 6:16 EDT

Sugary Drinks Can Dull Taste Buds

June 11, 2011

According to a new study, drinking two sugary drinks a day can dull the taste buds and lead to cravings for high-calorie foods.

The research suggests that within a month those who drink sugary beverages are left with a dulled sensitivity of sweet tastes. 

This leads to an increased preference for high-calorie and sugar-laden foods, which creates a “vicious cycle” as consumers look for their next treat.

Those who do not have a sweet tooth are particularly at risk of developing one after drinking sugary beverages.

Experts who carried out the research at the universities of Bristol and Bangor were surprise at how tastes could be dulled by exposure to sweet drinks.

Lucy Donaldson, of the University of Bristol, said: “We have known for some time that the way we perceive different tastes can change under different circumstances. Finding that two sweet drinks a day over a short time can dramatically change taste was a real surprise.”

The people rated their perception and enjoyment of sweet and salty tastes.  The obese participants tended to rate identical drinks as less sweet than the lean ones did.

The lean people’s sensitivity to sweet drinks was tested and they were asked to consume a sugary drink twice a day.  They were re-tested a month later and their sensitivity to sweet tastes and conscious enjoyment of them dulled.

Dr. Hans-Peter Kubis, of the University of Bangor, said the dulling of taste buds can lead to a “vicious cycle” as consumers of sugary drinks tend to more sweet and calorie-laden food to compensate.

He said in a statement: “This has serious implications for public health. This research shows how little sweet food stuffs are required to actually change your taste perceptions, and how powerful sweet-tasting products are.

“We are heading for a health disaster with rising obesity levels and the increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes. From our research it is clear to see how this situation may have created a cycle of sweet food and drink consumption. As taste satisfaction levels drop; the more sweet foods are consumed, contributing to these problems.”

The researchers called for advice to encourage people to eat more of the dried fruit and for them to be included in a five-a-day message.

Professor Gary Williamson said that dried fruits were often overlooked because people assumed they were too tasty to be good for you.

“We are not saying you should get all five of your five-a-day from dried fruit but you could definitely get at least one.

“Some fruits including dried fruits contain high levels of a variety of polyphenols and we are just starting to understand their health protective effect.”

Professor Daniel Gallaher, of the University of Minnesota who was also involved, said in a statement: “Dried fruits are great sources of total and soluble fiber in the diet.”

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