Various global public health agencies recommend minimizing exposure to sweet-tasting foods or beverages. The underlying rationale is that reducing exposure to the perception of sweet tastes, without regard to the source of sweetness, may reduce preferences for sweetness, added sugar intake, caloric intake, and body weight. However, the veracity of this sequence of outcomes has yet to be documented, as revealed by findings from recent systematic reviews on the topic. Efforts to examine and document the effects of sweetness exposure are needed to support evidence-based recommendations. They require a generally agreed-upon methodology for measuring sweetness in foods, beverages, and the overall diet. Although well-established sensory evaluation techniques exist for individual foods in laboratory settings, they are expensive and time-consuming, and agreement on the optimal approach for measuring the sweetness of the total diet is lacking. If such a measure could be developed, it would permit researchers to combine data from different studies and populations and facilitate the design and conduct of new studies to address unresolved research questions about dietary sweetness. This narrative review includes an overview of available sensory techniques, their strengths and limitations, recent efforts to measure the sweetness of foods and diets across countries and cultures, and a proposed future direction for improving methods for measuring sweetness toward developing the data required to support evidence-based recommendations around dietary sweetness.
This work was supported by the ILSI North America Low-Calorie Sweeteners Committee.