Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

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glassynails
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Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by glassynails » Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:52 pm

Am I correct in that when we eat sugar we are "rewarded" by dopamine? So I am assuming that during the evolutionary process our systems found out a way via our taste systems to send a reward to our brain so that we'd be drawn to seek out sugar and carbohydrates? AM I on the right track? Could people elaborate?

Kind of on the same subject this gets me thinking about both taste and smell. For example things that are not good for us often taste and or smell "bad", like say rotting food or something. Maybe through evolution the "bad" scent was encoded in us somehow to make us avoid things that could make us sick.

I'm also though wondering about "why" we certain things we taste taste bad etc. For example, we can bite into a cupcake and we automatically sense that it "tastes good" and we could say "mmmm I like that", but what's really going on inside us that makes all this happen?

Similarly if we taste something that "does not agree" with us, we automatically sense that it tastes bad and can say "Yuck, that tastes awful!". What's going on inside that makes us respond like this?

I am assuming ( as a lay-scientist :lol: ) that there are chemicals that are involved that are being sent to the brain to cause us to respond in one way or another, but then why would some people find tastes pleasant and others repulsive? Just variation in systems of people?

Anyways, I guess it all boils down to whatever "system" within the body that is doing the sensing and evolution. I'm sure it's a very complex amount of chemical processes that are going on inside that arise when for example we smell a good meal cooking and say to ourselves "Boy, does that smell delicious?!"

Thanks :)
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by dory » Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:46 pm

Be careful with me because members of my family are famous for having what we call "universal knowledge 101" -- that is we tend to sound really confident about things we may or may not know. This is my understanding. When our ancestors lived in the wild, things like sweet fruit had more calories than things like shoots and leaves, giving our brains a reason to reward us when we ate them. The thing about taste and smell is more complex. I don't like things like very stinky cheese. In fact I don't live any food with a very strong smell-- like boiled Brussels sprouts as opposed to roasted ones which don't smell strong. However, many people have no aversion to strong smells. A lot of people don't even mind gamey meat and many people I. Sweden eat rotten sardines. As for sweets, my brother doesn't care for sweets at all. I think of myself as ha I g a sweet tooth, but but I dislike intensely sweet deserts-- especially anything with frosting and I hate doughnuts. My point is, there is a huge amount of variability in what we like. Some of that variability is cultural and some of it is individual, like my hatred of frosting.
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guitarrista
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by guitarrista » Mon Jan 09, 2017 8:07 pm

glassynails wrote:Am I correct [...] assuming that during the evolutionary process our systems found out a way via our taste systems to send a reward to our brain so that we'd be drawn to seek out sugar and carbohydrates? AM I on the right track?
Nope; evolution is "blind". What happens is random variations and with time only those that coincidentally provide some advantage based on the living environment happen to be the ones that survive better and thus preserve that advantageous variation. So your description is sort of backwards - it is not evolution that redesigned us to have a given trait, but the environment which let only those with a randomly-acquired trait to survive better.

But in the case of liking sugar, there is also the fact that breast milk contains 7% carbohydrates (almost all of it lactose). So the human babies that really liked sugar survived better as they liked their mom's milk :-) Also the human brain runs mostly on glucose (which is what any carbohydrate including lactose is converted to in the body).
Last edited by guitarrista on Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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bear
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by bear » Mon Jan 09, 2017 8:23 pm

Not everyone has a sweet tooth. When my wife and I were dating, I bought a box of chocolates for Valentine's day. A month later she still had some left. The box would have lasted maybe an hour with me.
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by Lovemyguitar » Mon Jan 09, 2017 8:59 pm

glassynails wrote:...For example, we can bite into a cupcake and we automatically sense that it "tastes good" and we could say "mmmm I like that" ...Similarly if we taste something that "does not agree" with us, we automatically sense that it tastes bad and can say "Yuck, that tastes awful!"...
bear wrote:Not everyone has a sweet tooth...
Bear is right -- I have never had a sweet tooth, and so I would bite into a cupcake and say, "Yuck, that tastes awful!", because sugary sweetness is revolting to me. "We" don't all like the same things!

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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by tom0311 » Mon Jan 09, 2017 9:26 pm

About 3 years ago I would have been able to answer this fairly well, but as I've forgotten everything I studied about nutrition for 3 years I shan't bother. I will however say that sugar is the devil and will probably make you fatter than eating fat will.

Doesn't answer the question at all, but I saw a small experiment on telly where people were offered a selection of doughnuts and asked to pick one out. Chocolate sprinkled, glazed ring or one covered in icing and the like. Glazed ring won hands down as it apparently has the 'right' balance of sugar and fat and is therefore the more appetising one. I've not got a sweet tooth at all, but I do like a glazed ring doughnut.
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by dory » Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:14 am

Interestingly I detest glazed doughnuts, although I saw the same experiment on TV as you did. However, I have a huge weakness for chocolate. We are, indeed all different although we have some things in common.
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:22 am

Something tells me our ancestors didn't forage donuts in the wild. Sugar is bad for us and yet we've evolved to have a craving for it. I myself like salt snacks over sugar, but today was cold and grey and I found myself succumbing to chocolate sweets. I probably 'needed' the calories (not likely!) or some primitive part of my brain thought I did. The part that thought grandpa ran down donuts in the wild.
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by Lovemyguitar » Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:06 am

Speaking of glazed doughnuts and food of questionable nutritional value, about a year ago I read about a fad for hamburgers made with glazed doughnuts instead of buns. I shudder at the thought. Had our ancestors eaten those, I suspect that few of us would be here anymore...

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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by Hany Hayek » Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:59 am

Not everyone has a sweet tooth...
I totally agree. Me and wife rarely eat sweets. My only daily consumption of something sweet is a spoon of honey in my morning tea. I have a bar of marzipan (covered with chocolate) in the fridge for almost a month now and will stay longer till I finish it.
When I got into my forties, I started consuming more carbs. But still no sweets.
In any case our bodies, like cats, can turn protein into sugar in case of desperate need of sugar.
Cats have lost their taste of sweet. You can do the experiment if you have a cat. Make cookies they like without sugar, they will eat them anyway without noticing the difference.
We do need carbs (to turn to sugar) to metabolize the protein we consume.

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by Andrew Fryer » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:35 am

glassynails wrote:Am I correct in that when we eat sugar we are "rewarded" by dopamine?
Dunno, could be. All I know is that some research a while back claimed to have found that consumption of fat (think cream, etc) triggers the same areas of the brain that are triggered by physical pleasure. The tongue has different types of tastebuds that sense sweet, salt, bitter and sour. As hunter-gatherers we had to look for fruit that was good to eat. When Hany Hayek says
our bodies, like cats, can turn protein into sugar in case of desperate need of sugar
desperate is the operative word - we're talking starvation and muscle consumption, although I think we do get some percentage of our calories from the protein we eat, so perhaps that's what Hany meant [/afterthought].
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by AndreiKrylov » Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:14 pm

I do not care for sugar or anything sweet - cakes, cream, marzipan ,drinks etc.
Do not eat that sugar things or drink pop etc. probably for the last 30 years ..
Even more than do not care - I strongly dislike all that stuff :)
people say it brings pleasure? - wow! no pleasure for me...opposite...
But yes - I like fruits and veggies (with nothing added, just raw things) - there are probably some natural sugars in it?
and I eat 1 small spoon of honey in a day sometimes...
And I never go to fast food/junk food places - which promote and sell stuff filled with sugar etc.
Sugar and processed food may bring tsunami of medical problems on human society...
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by pmiklitz » Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:30 pm

AndreiKrylov wrote:I do not care for sugar or anything sweet - cakes, cream, marzipan ,drinks etc.
Do not eat that sugar things or drink pop etc. probably for the last 30 years ..
Even more than do not care - I strongly dislike all that stuff :)
people say it brings pleasure? - wow! no pleasure for me...opposite...
But yes - I like fruits and veggies (with nothing added, just raw things) - there are probably some natural sugars in it?
and I eat 1 small spoon of honey in a day sometimes...
And I never go to fast food/junk food places - which promote and sell stuff filled with sugar etc.
Sugar and processed food may bring tsunami of medical problems on human society...
When we say sugar, we normally mean Sucrose (Saccharose), which chemically is just one kind of sugar (a di-saccharid containing Glucose and Fructose) from a vast range of sugar molecules with different structures. Glucose is the main nutrient for the Brain, hence our sense of taste evolved to like foods that contain Glucose or Fructose (the main sugar in fruits, which enzymes in our body can easily convert into Glucose). Honey and fruit are much more agreeable than Sucrose, because they contain the same sugars as individual molecules, but don't cause the nasty side effects of Sucrose, such as tooth decay.

I personally used to drink e.g. coffee with sugar, but stopped doing so years ago and noticed afterwards that coffee with sugar now tastes bad to me, so using excess sugar is just a bad habit.

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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by pogmoor » Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:49 pm

pmiklitz wrote:Honey and fruit are much more agreeable than Sucrose, because they contain the same sugars as individual molecules, but don't cause the nasty side effects of Sucrose, such as tooth decay.
I'm not sure that's true. Tooth decay is mainly caused by acid-forming bacteria that feed on sugars. As far as I know they are just as happy to consume monosaccharide sugars (especially glucose and fructose) as disaccharide sugars (such as sucrose, lactose, maltose).
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Re: Why does sugar taste "good" to us?

Post by tom0311 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:53 pm

Sugar is mainly only useful to us if it gets transported to muscles in the form of glucose by insulin in the blood. From what I remember when I did my studies, fructose triggers a much weaker insulin response than other sugars, so more of it ends up being processed into fat.

You also have a maximum capacity for sugar in the blood so any more than around 5-8g in a 'sitting' and you're just putting on fat.

Not to mention serotonin and dopamine secretion which can start an addiction, and the sugar crashes you get after consuming it. Followed by the higher chance of diabetes down the line.
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