Sweet taste and obesity

Gabriela Ribeiro, Albino J. Oliveira-Maia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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For more than 50 years, there has been evidence for greater consumption of sweet- foods in overweight humans and animals, relative to those that have a normal weight. Furthermore, it has long been suggested that energy deficit resulting from dieting, while moving the individual from a higher weight set point, would result in heightened susceptibility to palatable tastants, namely to sweet tastants. This was the motivation behind the first studies comparing sweet taste perception between individuals with obesity and those of a normal weight. These studies, using direct measures of taste, have been characterized by significant methodological heterogeneity, contributing towards variability in results and conclusions. Nevertheless, some of these findings have been used to support the theory that patients with obesity have decreased taste perception, particularly for sweet tastants. A similar hypothesis has been proposed regarding evidence for reduced brain dopamine receptors in obesity and, in both cases, it is proposed that increased food consumption, and associated weight gain, result from the need to increase sensory and brain stimulation. However, the available literature is not conclusive on the association between obesity and reduced sweet taste perception, with both negative and contradictory findings in comparisons between individuals with obesity and normal weight control subjects, as well as within-subject comparisons before and after bariatric surgery. Nevertheless, following either Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy, there is evidence of changes in taste perception, particularly for reward-related measures of sweet tastants, that should be further tested and confirmed in large samples, using consensual methodology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3 - 10
JournalEuropean Journal Of Internal Medicine
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Bariatric surgery
  • Obesity
  • Psychophysics
  • Reward-related feeding behavior
  • Taste perception


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