The hypothalamus has an abundant expression of sweet taste receptors that play a role in glucose sensing and energy homeostasis. Evidence suggests that liking “sweets” can be associated with weight gain, but the influence of sweet taste preference (STP) on hypothalamic regulation of appetite is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that STP is associated with increased hypothalamic activation in response to glucose (a potential marker of obesity risk), and that greater STP and glucose-linked hypothalamic activation would predict greater weight gain. Forty-six (24 female) adults age 18-35 years completed the study. Height and weight were measured at baseline and 6-12 months later in a subset of 38. STP was assessed via the Monell 2-series, forced-choice tracking procedure. Arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging was performed before and ∼35 min after 75g glucose ingestion, and hypothalamic response to glucose was measured by calculating hypothalamic blood flow (BF) after minus before glucose ingestion. Linear regression was used to examine relationships between STP and the hypothalamic response to glucose and changes in BMI before and after adjusting for age, sex, BMI, mean cerebral BF, and baseline BMI. Baseline BMI was 27.61±5.13 kg/m2. STP scores ranged from 3% to 29.39% w/v. The hypothalamic response to glucose ranged from -14.64 to 15.63 ml/100g/min. Change in BMI ranged from -2.93 to 6.00 kg/m2. STP was positively associated with hypothalamic response to glucose (unadjusted: β=0.65, p<0.0001; adjusted: β=0.29, p=0.01). Greater hypothalamic response to glucose was positively associated with increases in BMI (unadjusted: β=0.07, p=0.04; adjusted: β=0.09, p=0.07). STP was positively associated with increases in BMI (unadjusted: β=0.09, p=0.0004; adjusted: β=0.09, p=0.0002). Our results suggest that heightened STP is associated with a greater hypothalamic response to glucose which may relate to greater susceptibility for weight gain.


A.G. Yunker: None. J. Alves: None. B.C. Angelo: None. A.W. DeFendis: None. S.H. Luo: None. K.A. Page: None.


National Institutes of Health (R01DK102794)

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