A Common Genetic Influence on Human Intensity Ratings of Sugars and High-Potency Sweeteners

Liang Dar Hwang, Gu Zhu, Paul A.S. Breslin, Danielle R. Reed, Nicholas G. Martin, Margaret J. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The perception of sweetness varies among individuals but the sources of this variation are not fully understood. Here, in a sample of 1,901 adolescent and young adults (53.8% female; 243 MZ and 452 DZ twin pairs, 511 unpaired individuals; mean age 16.2 ± 2.8, range 12-26 years), we studied the variation in the perception of sweetness intensity of two monosaccharides and two high-potency sweeteners: glucose, fructose, neohesperidine dihydrochalcone (NHDC), and aspartame. Perceived intensity for all sweeteners decreased with age (2-5% per year) and increased with the history of otitis media (6-9%). Males rated aspartame slightly stronger than females (7%). We found similar heritabilities for sugars (glucose: h 2 = 0.31, fructose: h 2 = 0.34) and high-potency sweeteners (NHDC: h 2 = 0.31, aspartame: h 2 = 0.30); all were in the modest range. Multivariate modeling showed that a common genetic factor accounted for >75% of the genetic variance in the four sweeteners, suggesting that individual differences in perceived sweet intensity, which are partly due to genetic factors, may be attributed to a single set of genes. This study provided evidence of the shared genetic pathways between the perception of sugars and high-potency sweeteners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-367
Number of pages7
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 4 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Genetics(clinical)


  • heritability
  • high-potency sweeteners
  • perception
  • sweet intensity
  • sweet taste
  • twins


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