To address gaps in knowledge, our objectives were to (1) to determine whether there are age-related changes in sweet taste detection thresholds, as has been observed for sweet taste preferences, and (2) determine whether detection thresholds and taste preferences were significantly related to each other from childhood to adulthood. We combined data from studies that used the same validated psychophysical techniques to measure sucrose taste detection threshold and the most preferred sucrose concentration in children (n = 108), adolescents (n = 172), and adults (n = 205). There were significant effects of age group on both sucrose detection thresholds (p < 0.001) and most preferred sucrose concentration (p < 0.001). While children had higher sucrose detection thresholds than adolescents, who in turn tended to have higher detection thresholds than adults, both children and adolescent most preferred sucrose concentrations were higher than that of adults (all p < 0.05). Among each age group, and when combined, the lowest sucrose concentration detected was not significantly correlated with the most preferred sucrose concentration (all p > 0.18). These data provide further evidence that age-related changes in sucrose taste preferences that occur during adolescence cannot be explained by changes in taste sensitivity and that these two dimensions of sweet taste undergo distinct developmental trajectories from childhood to adulthood.
Keywords: detection threshold; development; preferences; psychophysics; sweet taste.