Sugar, salt influence food liking more than fat

January 18, 2018

A study published in Food Quality and Preference examines the role fat plays in pleasantness and perception in both a salty and a sweet liquid food product. The researchers explained that fat in food is often combined with a sweet or salty taste.

The researchers had the 47 participants taste creamy tomato soup and custard in four fat concentrations (0%, 7.5%, 15%, 30%), combined with four salt concentrations (0.04%, 0.35%, 0.7%, 1.5%) in soup, and four sugar concentrations (0.56%, 4.5%, 9%, 18%) in custard. The participants then rated the pleasantness, saltiness intensity, sweetness intensity, and fattiness intensity.

The researchers found that fat and salt separately affected pleasantness in soup, while fat, sugar and their interaction affected pleasantness in custard. Sugar and salt were a stronger influencer of pleasantness than fat. Preference for fat in soup was variable, whereas the highest concentration of 30% fat was preferred in custard.

The researchers concluded that salt and sugar are stronger influencers on food liking than fat. Across foods, there is no consistent effect of fat on perception or on liking, therefore the attractiveness of fat in foods cannot be generalized. The attraction to high fat levels in custard, while hardly perceiving differences in fat concentrations, remains unclear and needs further investigation.