Preference for sweets

Given the increase in cases of diabetes and obesity, it is important to know how intake regulation systems work and why the preference for sweet foods may be greater.

Sweet is one of the five basic and unique tastes that is globally accepted by all cultures and ethnicities on earth as one of the most pleasurable tastes. It is detected mainly in the taste buds at the tip of the tongue. Foods that are high in carbohydrates are perceived as sweet and the artificial flavorings that provide the sweet taste are called sweeteners.

Sweet molecules in nature are sugars found mainly in plants (i.e., fructose, sucrose, and glucose), in addition to lactose found in the milk of many species, all of which provide a source of energy and sweetness. It has been hypothesized that sweetness preference may exist to identify energy-rich foods (i.e., containing readily available glucose).

The factors associated with sweet preference are multifaceted and incredibly complex. Among them we can find age, dietary factors, reproductive hormonal factors, body weight status, heritable, weight loss, sound, personality, ethnicity and lifestyle, previous exposure, disease and "other" determinants.

The tendency to a greater preference and consumption of foods that provide a sweet taste sensation is determined by different factors such as sociocultural learning or genetic variants involved in the metabolism of sweet substances. Some studies have identified a marker associated with increased consumption and preference for sugar, finding this marker in the SLC2A2 gene also called GLUT2 (glucose transporter 2), which seems to exert a glucose sensing function in the brain (in addition to its function as a transporter of this sugar).

Number of observed variants

13.5 million variants

Number of variants analyzed in the study

1 variant


Eny KM, Wolever TMS, Fontaine-Bisson B, El-Sohemy A. Genetic variant in the glucose transporter type 2 is associated with higher intakes of sugars in two distinct populations. Physiol Genomics. 2008;33(3):355–60.

Venditti C., Musa-Veloso K., et al. Determinants of Sweetness Preference: A Scoping Review of Human Studies. Nutrients. 2020 Mar; 12(3): 718.

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