Taking the bitter with the sweet: relationship of supertasting and sweet preference with metabolic syndrome and dietary intake

J Food Sci. 2013 Feb;78(2):S336-42. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12008. Epub 2013 Jan 16.


Results examining the effects of tasting profile on dietary intake and health outcomes have varied. This study examined the interaction of sweet liker (SL) and supertaster (ST) (bitter taste test through phenylthiocarbamide [PTC]) status with incidence of metabolic syndrome. Participants (n = 196) as part of baseline testing in a behavioral weight loss study completed measures assessing SL and ST status, metabolic syndrome, and dietary intake. SLs were more likely to be African American. More women than men were STs. There was a significant interaction between ST and SL status as associated with metabolic syndrome, after adjustment for demographic characteristics. This interaction was also significantly associated with fiber and caloric beverage intake. Post hoc analyses showed that participants who were only an ST or SL appeared to have a decreased risk of having metabolic syndrome compared with those who have a combination or are neither taster groups (P = 0.047) and that SL + ST consumed less fiber than SL + non-ST (P = 0.04). Assessing genetic differences in taster preferences may be a useful strategy in the development of more tailored approaches to dietary interventions to prevent and treat metabolic syndrome.

Practical application: Tasting profile, such as sweet liking (SL) or supertaster (ST), may be influenced by genetics, and therefore in turn, may influence dietary intake. The present study found an interaction between ST and SL status with incidence of metabolic syndrome and fiber and caloric beverage intake. Testing people for these tasting profiles may assist with tailoring dietary recommendations, particularly around fiber and caloric beverage intake, and provide a way to modify metabolic syndrome risk.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Beverages / analysis*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Energy Intake*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / genetics
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenylthiourea / analysis
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Risk Factors
  • Sweetening Agents / analysis
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Sweetening Agents
  • taste receptors, type 2
  • Phenylthiourea