Instinctual Liking for Sweetness

The appreciation of the sensation of sweetness runs deep in the human psyche. In literature and mythology sweetness is linked with pleasure and goodness, and in everyday language we use terms associated with sweetness to describe those we love (sweetie pie, honeybun). Our first food, breast milk, is sweet—in fact it is the sweetest of all mammalian milks. Newborn human infants drink more of a sweet solution than of plain water or of a salty, acidic, or bitter solution. It is not a learned taste: Everyone could be said to be born with a 'sweet tooth.' The reason for this sweet preference is not known. We could speculate that the brain's dependence on glucose as its sole source of fuel has

Table 1 Sources of sweetness in human diets

• Corn syrup solids

• High-fructose corn syrup solids

coevolved in an environment where glucose or its precursor was not evenly distributed throughout the food supply. Perhaps those early primates who were able to detect sweetness best were most likely to survive.

Hunter-gatherers of the past relished honey and other sources of concentrated sweetness such as maple syrup, dried fruit, and honey ants (Table 1). Wild honey was so highly prized that we went to great lengths to obtain it. Australian Aboriginals would attach a tiny feather to a bee and follow it all the way back to its hive. The Wild Men (Veddas) of Sri Lanka esteemed honey so highly that they regularly risked their lives to obtain it.

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