Surveying food and beverage liking: a tool for epidemiological studies to connect chemosensation with health outcomes

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Jul;1170:558-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04593.x.


Genetics, environmental exposures, and aging interact to produce variations in the perception or liking of taste, olfaction, and somatosensory sensations (i.e., chemosensation). Chemosensory variation can affect disease risk by influencing what people like and choose to eat from abundant supplies of desirable high-fat, sweet, and salty foods and alcoholic beverages at the expense of less-available or less-liked vegetables. We contend that assessing dietary preference via liking-disliking surveys holds promise for linking chemosensation with dietary intake and health outcomes in population-based studies. Typical intake measures (e.g., frequency surveys, dietary records) are difficult to complete and interpret. Because of memory issues and dietary restraint, individuals under- or overreport intakes, leading to inaccurate conclusions about diet-disease relationships. Surveying food and beverage liking is a time-efficient, simple task that minimizes the cognitive limitations of intake measures. In the present study, women in a worksite health risk appraisal completed brief food frequency and liking surveys and reported their height and weight, and blood pressure was measured. While liking and intake measures for high-fat and high-fiber foods were correlated, only liking was associated with disease risk. In multiple regression models, women reporting greater liking for high-fat foods and less liking for spicy foods had greater adiposity and/or blood pressure, controlling for age. These data, along with previous laboratory and community-based studies, support that reported liking of high-fat foods explains variability in adiposity and adiposity-related outcomes. Hedonic measures appear to capture habitual intake of foods and beverages, are easy to implement in the field, and thus may increase understanding of how chemosensory variation modifies disease risk.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beverages*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Taste*