How Sweet It Is!

119834227New research out of the National University of Singapore may explain why your food tastes the way it does, and why that flavor may have nothing to do with your taste buds. After a series of experiments, researchers have concluded that people correlate love with sweetness and romance may help people perceive food to be sweeter, as well.

In one experiment, participants were asked to communicate how emotions related to different tastes. For example, would jealousy taste sweet, spicy, bitter, or sour? In a second experiment, participants were asked to write down two different answers to the open-ended question of “If love were a taste, what would it be?” A third group was asked to write about either romantic love, romantic jealousy, or (a control) about landmarks in Singapore before eating and rating the taste of sweet and sour candy and bittersweet chocolate. Finally, a fourth group was asked to write about either love, jealousy, or happiness before taste-testing a “new product,” which was actually a simple glass of distilled water.

People who wrote about love rated their samples as sweeter, whether they were sampling the chocolate, candy, or water. Those in the jealousy groups didn’t report their samples as tasting more bitter or sour compared to the control group.

Researchers believe this can be attributed to the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region that anticipates reward and is activated by romantic love and the taste of sugar. Thus, the brain may associate love and sweetness, even when there is no actual external sweetness.

For more on this study, see the journal Emotion.

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