As taste preferences may be associated with obesity, the present study investigated whether obese subjects presented heightened liking for the sensations of sweet, salt and fat.
Liking scores were determined by a questionnaire including 83 items on liking for sweet or fatty foods, and the preferred extent of seasoning with salt, sweet or fat. Data from 46 909 adults included in the French web-based observational cohort of the Nutrinet-Santé study were collected and weighted according to the national population census. Relationships between liking scores and body mass index (BMI) as categorical or linear explanatory variable were assessed separately by gender using covariance and linear regression analyses, adjusted for age, education level, living area, smoking and alcohol.
Overall liking scores for salt and fat were linearly positively linked to BMI in men and women (P⩽0.001) and were higher in obese than in normal-weight individuals. The score difference between BMI categories was greater in women for fat liking only. For sweet liking, results differed between gender and compounding factors. Liking for added sugar and sweet foods was positively linked to BMI in women unlike in men; liking for natural sweetness was negatively linked to BMI in both genders.
This study demonstrates that the relationship between liking and BMI differs according to the gender in its magnitude for fat and in its nature for sweet, unlike that for salt. Liking for sweet and fat may be linked to overconsumption of the corresponding foods, especially in women. This warrants further investigation.