Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Taste and food preferences as predictors of dietary practices in young women

Adam Drewnowskia1 c1, Susan Ahlstrom Hendersona2, Alisa Levinea2 and Clayton Hanna2

a1 Nutritional Sciences Program, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

a2 Human Nutrition Program, University of Michigan, USA


Objective: To investigate links between taste responses, self-reported food preferences and selected dietary outcomes in young women.

Methods: Subjects were 159 women, with a mean age of 27.0 years. Taste responses were measured using aqueous solutions of 6−n-propylthiouracil (PROP) and sucrose. All subjects completed a 171-item food preference checklist, using nine-point category scales. Food preference data were reduced using principal components factor analyses, with the internal consistency of factor-based subscales established using Cronbach's alpha. Dietary intakes, available for a subset of 87 women, were based on 3 days of food records. Estimated intakes of carbohydrate, fibre and β-carotene were the key dietary outcome variables.

Results: Genetically-mediated sensitivity to the bitter taste of PROP was associated with reduced preferences for Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach and coffee beverages. Higher preferences for sucrose in water were associated with increased preferences for sweet desserts. Food preferences, in turn, were associated with measures of current diet. Reduced acceptability of vegetables and fruits was associated with lower estimated intakes of carbohydrate, fibre and β-carotene.

Conclusions: Taste responses to sucrose and PROP were predictive of some food preferences. Food preferences, in turn, were associated with food consumption patterns. Given that taste responsiveness to PROP is an inherited trait, there may be further links between genetic taste markers, eating habits and the selection of healthful diets.

(Received September 11 1998)

(Accepted February 09 1999)


c1 Corresponding author: Email