The sweet taste of victory

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May 23, 2017

by Laura Smith



...is there a link between how we’re feeling and our sense of taste?


I’m a sucker for a good documentary, and the BBC didn’t let me down a couple of weeks back when they aired ‘The Truth About Stress’ in which host Fiona Phillips explored ‘perception, experience and management of stress’ - how every day stresses affect us in a host of different ways.

Some of the more common symptoms were no surprise to me, ranging from insomnia, increased blood pressure and nausea to loss of appetite and avoidance of social situations. However, one study in particular caught my attention; is there a link between how we’re feeling and our sense of taste?

Fiona joined Professor Robin Dando of Cornell University, to conduct research on a stadium full of fans after a football match. Half were over the moon that their team had won, while the other half were naturally feeling less than thrilled about the outcome. Both sets of fans were given the same product to sample - Lemon Curd Doughnuts - and were asked to score them on two taste attributes; sweet and sour. They were also asked to rate how stressed they were feeling.

The conclusion was fascinating.

The fans whose team had won the game (and who scored low for stress), noted significantly higher levels of sweetness. In comparison, the losing fans who were more stressed, noted lower perceptions of sweetness and reported much higher levels of sour. Ultimately, this indicated that our mood does indeed affect how we perceive taste.

If we’re feeling stressed our perception of sweetness is significantly lower, therefore we crave higher volumes of sugar (that explains why scoffing a sharing bag of Doritos and an entire box of Maltesers STILL doesn’t make us feel any better after a bad day at the office!) Those of us who experience consistently high levels of stress and regularly binge on intensely sweet foods, are also more likely to suffer from diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

Nutritionist Christine Bailey reports that mass consumption of high fat, sugary comfort foods cause blood sugar levels to spike (then subsequently plummet), which leads to increased anxiousness. Instead of reaching for the cookie jar we should consider satisfying our cravings with fruits, such as berries, that will give us the sweet taste we crave without the high levels of fat and sugar. Pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts are a great snack that not only help to stabilise blood sugar levels, but also contain Omega 3 and Magnesium, which are great for brain health and alleviating anxiety.

Here someone much more scientifically inclined explains more...

From a researcher’s perspective then, context is an important part of the research design. As I’m currently in the process of buying my first home, I’d better steer clear of any surveys for a while!

Laura Smith is Marketing Communications Executive at MMR


Pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts are a great snack that not only help to stabilise blood sugar levels, but also contain Omega 3 and Magnesium, which are great for brain health and alleviating anxiety.