Why do sugars taste good?

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. Summer 1990;14(2):125-34. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(05)80213-1.


The preference humans and animals show for sweet solutions has been the subject of hundreds of publications. Nevertheless, the evolutionary origin of sweet preference remains enigmatic because of the relatively low nutritional value of sugars and the absence of specific tastes for other, more essential, nutrients. Moderate concentrations of sugars are found in most plant foods because sugars play an important role in plant physiology. Widespread occurrence of sugars in plants is paralleled by widespread preference for sugar solutions in mammals. These observations suggest that preference for sugars evolved because they are common in plants and easy to detect rather than because of any special nutritional merits they offer. Perception of sweetness cannot be used to accurately meter the metabolizable energy or nutritive value of a food.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrates / analysis
  • Carbohydrates / physiology*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Fructose / physiology
  • Glucose / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Mammals / psychology*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Sucrose / physiology
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Threshold / physiology


  • Carbohydrates
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose
  • Glucose