Starch and sugar tastes in rodents: an update

Brain Res Bull. Sep-Oct 1991;27(3-4):383-6. doi: 10.1016/0361-9230(91)90129-8.


Rats are strongly attracted to the sweet taste of sugar. Recent behavioral studies demonstrate that rats also have a well-developed taste for starch-derived polysaccharides (e.g., Polycose). In fact, rats prefer Polycose to sucrose and other sugars at low concentrations. Polycose appetite develops at a very young age (9 days) and, thus, appears to be innate. The results of conditioned taste aversion tests suggest that rats taste Polycose as qualitatively different from sucrose. Recent electrophysiological findings support the idea that rodents have separate taste channels for polysaccharides and sugars. In particular, copper chloride suppresses the chorda tympani nerve response to sucrose and other sugars but has minimal effect on the neural response to Polycose. Also, Polycose evokes a profile of neural activity in the nucleus tractus solitarius that differs substantially from that produced by sucrose. Preliminary results indicate that polysaccharide and sugar tastes also differ in their metabolic consequences, i.e., unlike sugars, Polycose does not elicit a cephalic phase insulin response. The presumed function of polysaccharide taste is to facilitate the identification of starch-rich foods. Recent findings demonstrate that rats can readily detect starch even at low concentrations, but whether polysaccharide taste receptors or other orosensory receptors mediate this response remains to be clarified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrates / physiology*
  • Mouth / physiology
  • Polysaccharides / physiology
  • Rodentia / physiology*
  • Sensation
  • Starch / physiology*
  • Taste / physiology*


  • Carbohydrates
  • Polysaccharides
  • Starch