Too many sugary drinks could lead to “vicious” consumption cycle, study

By Helen Glaberson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Obesity Nutrition Sugar

Drinking two sugary beverages a day for four weeks is enough to dull sensitivity to the sweet taste and lead to a “viscous cycle” of consumption, claims a new UK study from Bangor University.

Dr Hans-Peter Kubis, who led research, said the findings have “serious implications for public health.”

The authors claim that as the sweet ‘treat’ becomes less rewarding, the person tends to look for more sweet food or drink, leading to a circle of consuming sweet food.

Published in Appetite,​ the study’s initial results showed that overweight individuals are more instinctively attracted to sweet drinks, according to the authors.

In the first stages of the study, 22 normal-weight and 11 overweight adults were assessed for sweet taste intensity, pleasantness and the participant’s subconscious preference for sweet food.

It was found that overweight and obese participants rated identical drinks as being less sweet than lean participants, said the authors.

However, a follow-up study showed it was also possible to recreate the sugary drinks taste perception in “normal weight people” as well as obese people, said the authors.

Second study

The second study involved putting 12 lean people, who don’t usually consume sugary drinks, on consuming soft drinks such as Lucozade Energy, GlaxoSmithKline for four weeks, in addition to their habitual diet.

The scientists said the drink supplementation changed sweet intensity/pleasantness ratings and increased explicit preference in these participants.

In response to the study’s findings, Richard Laming, a spokesperson from The British Soft Drinks Association Laming said “I think one should be cautious about drawing sweeping conclusions from an experiment involving only 12 subjects with no control group.”


Kubis said the​research shows how little sweet food stuffs are required to actually change taste perceptions and how powerful sweet tasting products are.

The Bangor scientists said there are no ‘bad guys’ in terms of the most risky beverages, the levels of sugar found in fruit cordial or ‘squash’ and natural fruit juice as well as carbonated drinks are all “too high in sugar and too sweet”​ they said.

Kubis said the findings may encourage the government to consider taxing sugar that is added to foodstuffs and have that tax ring fenced for the health budget.

However, Laming from The British Soft Drinks Association said taxes on soft drinks do not achieve the intended objectives, adding that they are ineffective and unfair.

“It is much better to provide the appropriate information and educate the public how to make the right choices. More regulation and higher taxes will not help. Empowering consumers and citizens will,”​ he added.

Fruit juice

Kubis said he would also question including fruit juice in the 5 a day message.

“Fruit juice is higher in sugars than people realise,” ​he said.

Laming from The British Soft Drinks Association said fruit juice contains only the sugar that was in the original fruit.

“A glass of fruit juice can count as one of five a day: there is no reason to change this,”​ he said.

Source: Appetite Taste perception and implicit attitude toward sweet related to body mass index and soft drink supplementation ​Volume: 56, Issue: 1, (2011), 237–246 Authors: F. Sartor, L. F. Donaldson, D. A. Markland, H. Loveday, M. J. Jackson, H.P. Kubis

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