The research was conducted as part of The CHOICE study, a 6-month, 3-group, randomized clinical weight loss trial that compared the replacement of caloric beverages with non-caloric sweetened beverages or water as compared to a healthy attention choices control.
Overweight men and women between ages of 18-65 with BMI indices between 25.0 and 49.9 were randomized to one of three conditions: (1) water provision, (2) non-caloric sweetened beverage provision or (3) attention control. Because the intervention recruited participants who were high caloric beverage consumers, this study also aimed to examine the relationship between tasting status and beverage consumption.
Upon assessing the 196 participants who were monitored, the researchers found that those having both SL and ST taste profiles or neither taste profile were more likely to have an increased risk of metabolic syndrome compared to those who were only an SL or ST. The interaction between SL and ST was also significantly associated with fiber and beverage intake suggesting that tasting patterns may have an effect on both dietary intake and disease risk.
Interestingly, SLs were nearly four times more likely to be African American than any other ethnicity, and were almost three times more likely to be male. And while age, race or gender were not significantly associated with ST status, the percentage of women who were ST (42%) was borderline significantly greater than the percentage of men (25%).
Researchers noted a significant interaction between ST and SL status as associated with metabolic syndrome, after adjustment for demographic characteristics. The interaction was also significantly associated with fiber and caloric beverage intake. “Post hoc analyses to examine the differences among the 4 tasting groups for fiber and caloric beverages were not significant,” the researchers wrote. “So while the interaction between ST and SL was significant, it is unknown which of these tasting pairs was driving the differences.”
They additionally cited research that demonstrated the possible link between taster status and weight, with those who are STs having a lower BMI than non-tasters. “The relationship between taster status and health outcomes, weight, and dietary intake has been mixed, however, with studies showing variable results,” they wrote.
Among overweight and obese participants, there was not a significant interaction between taster groups and BMI. “The relationship between taster status and the different criteria that compose metabolic syndrome (such as elevated BMI, blood glucose, and blood pressure) is thought to be mediated by dietary intake,” they wrote. “For example, female non-STs are more likely to consume greater energy intake when presented with an unlimited amount of food than ST. SLs tend to have diets that are higher in sugar and sweet desserts and non-STs have diets that are higher in fat. Both of these consumption patterns have been shown to increase the risk of dislipidemia.
“STs also tend to be vegetable avoiders, having diets that are lower in dietary fiber and diets high in fiber are protective against metabolic syndrome,” they continued. “In addition, ST may consume more dietary sodium (putting them at higher risk of hypertension), both because STs may prefer saltier tastes and because salty foods may mask a food’s natural bitterness.”
Operating under the supposition that one’s preference of sweets to bitters might be influenced by genetics, the researchers felt testing people for those tasting profiles might “assist with tailoring dietary recommendations, particularly around fiber and caloric beverage intake, and provide a way to modify metabolic syndrome risk.”
They concluded by recommending that larger scale trials be conducted to test the tasting profiles in order to assist with tailoring dietary interventions to prevent and treat metabolic syndrome.