October 18, 1985

Report Outline
The Innate Sweet Tooth
World Sugar Trade
Substitute Sweeteners
Special Focus

The Innate Sweet Tooth

Preference for Sweet-Testing Foods, Drinks

The next time the temptation to indulge in a hot fudge sundae proves overwhelming, take comfort in the knowledge that humans have a built-in predilection for sweet-tasting foods. According to biopsychologist Gary Beauchamp, evidence strongly suggests “that human infants at birth have a ‘sweet tooth’ prior to any exposure to carbohydrate sugars.” This innate sweet tooth was crucial to humankind's successful struggle to survive, steering primitive beings away from bitter-tasting, poisonous plants and toward calorie-rich, energy-producing sweet ones.

Today, the level of sugar consumption indicates relative wealth. Researchers have observed that as a nation grows rich enough for its people to move from a subsistence diet to a more varied one, sugar intake goes up. It comes as no surprise, then, that Americans have an exceptionally sweet tooth. As a nation, Americans prefer heavily sweetened soft drinks, coffee and tea; sweet vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, peas, corn and peppers; sweet breads, pies, cakes and candies and sweetened breakfast cereals. Not to mention naturally sweet fruits and melons, table sugar, jams and jellies, syrup, honey, candies, ice cream and gelatin desserts.

Sucrose, the common table sugar refined from sugar cane and sugar beets, is by far the leading food additive in the United States. “There is no other food that we consume in larger quantities,” said Bonnie Liebman, a nutritionist with the consumer-oriented Center for Science in the Public Interest. Altogether Americans ate some 30 billion pounds of refined sugars, corn syrups and honey—known collectively as “caloric sweeteners”—last year. That works out to about 127 pounds a person. The average American also consumed 15.8 pounds of artificial sweeteners, aspartame and saccharine, that because of their low- or no-calorie content make them especially popular among the diet-conscious.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Sugar Industry
Nov. 30, 2012  Sugar Controversies
Oct. 18, 1985  Sugar
Aug. 07, 1963  Sugar Prices and Supplies
Oct. 02, 1946  Sugar Supply
Feb. 24, 1942  Sugar Shortage
Nov. 24, 1939  Protection of the Sugar Industry
Mar. 12, 1934  Stabilization of the Sugar Industry
Sep. 06, 1932  The Future of the Sugar Tariff
Apr. 17, 1929  The Tariff on Sugar
Aug. 04, 1924  Sugar and the Tariff
Exports and Imports
Obesity and Weight Control