Oral sensory phenotype identifies level of sugar and fat required for maximal liking

John E. Hayes, Valerie B. Duffy

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126 Scopus citations


A half-century ago, Fischer and colleagues found correlations between food preference and genetic markers of taste [6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP), quinine]. Recently, a number of studies report differences in sweet liking/disliking with taste phenotype or genotype. Here we modeled optimal liking for milk/sugar mixtures using the response surface method among 79 mostly normal weight adults (36 women) who reported low dietary restraint. Two non-overlapping phenotype analyses were performed: a) discordance in PROP versus quinine bitterness and b) number of fungiform papillae (FP, taste papillae on the tongue tip). Although all phenotype groups liked highly sweet and creamy sensations (in liking by sensation models), the fat and sugar levels for hedonic optima varied (in liking by concentration models). Males generally liked higher fat (20 to 40%) and sugar levels, with females disliking unsweetened cream. In quinine/PROP groups, liking peaked at 30% fat/15% sucrose for men and women who tasted 0.32 mM quinine more bitter than 3.2 mM PROP (n = 15); a group previously shown to have highest sugar intakes (Duffy et al., 2003). Those tasting PROP more bitter than quinine (n = 14) reported greater creamy/sweet sensations, with peak liking at lower fat and sweet levels (3.3% fat/10% sucrose). Generally, those in the high FP group perceived more creamy/sweet sensations with level of liking more influenced by sugar level, especially among high FP females. At high sugar/high fat levels low FP males and females retained this liking while liking fell off for those in the high FP group. In summary, although most liked sweet/creamy sensations, perceptual differences in these sensations varied with oral phenotype, explaining some of the differences in the amount of sugar and fat required to reach hedonic optima. A high affinity for high sugar/high fat mixtures among oral phenotype subgroups has relevance for energy consumption and could explain the link previously observed between oral sensation and body weight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-87
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 3 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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