Liking and Acceptability of Whole Grains Increases With a 6-Week Exposure but Preferences for Foods Varying in Taste and Fat Content Are Not Altered: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Curr Dev Nutr. 2020 Mar 9;4(3):nzaa023. doi: 10.1093/cdn/nzaa023. eCollection 2020 Mar.


Background: Since 2005, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have recommended consuming at least half of total grains as whole grains (WGs) for optimal health benefits; however, consumption of WGs falls far short of recommended amounts.

Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the effect of mere exposure to WGs on liking, acceptability, and consumption of WG foods and to determine if exposure to WG would influence liking and wanting for other foods varying in fat content and sweet taste.

Methods: Healthy, self-identified low WG consumers (n = 45) were randomly assigned to either a 6-wk WG intervention or a refined grain (RG) control condition during which they received a weekly market basket of grain products to incorporate into daily meals and snacks. Consumption of grain products was measured by weekly logs and weigh-backs. A sensory evaluation protocol was conducted at baseline and week 6 to evaluate changes in perception of grain products. Computer tasks designed to measure liking and wanting for other foods varying in high/low-fat content and sweet/savory taste were also completed at baseline and week 6.

Results: Participants in the WG group significantly increased WG consumption. Exposure to WG products resulted in improved ratings of liking, flavor, texture, and willingness to include WG in the regular diet. No significant changes in liking or wanting for foods representing high-fat sweet (HFSW), low-fat sweet (LFSW), high-fat savory (HFSA), or low-fat savory (LFSA) categories were found in the WG group. In contrast, exposure to RG foods resulted in an increased explicit wanting for HFSW and LFSW and a decreased wanting for HFSA foods.

Conclusions: Mere exposure to WG foods represents a feasible and easily applied behavioral strategy for increasing consumption of WGs. Encouraging consumers to focus on enjoyment of the taste may be more effective than emphasizing the health benefits of WG consumption. This trial was registered at as NCT01403857.

Keywords: high-fat savory; high-fat sweet; implicit and explicit; liking and wanting; low whole grain consumers; low-fat savory; low-fat sweet; mere exposure; sensory evaluation; whole grain consumption.

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