Open Access Research article

Sweet taste sensitivity in pre-diabetics, diabetics and normoglycemic controls: a comparative cross sectional study

Sudharshani Wasalathanthri1*, Priyadarshika Hettiarachchi2 and Shamini Prathapan3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physiology, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka

2 Department of Physiology, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Gangodawila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka

3 Department of Community Medicine, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Gangodawila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka

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BMC Endocrine Disorders 2014, 14:67  doi:10.1186/1472-6823-14-67

Published: 13 August 2014



Increasing prevalence of pre-diabetes is an emerging public health problem. Decrease in sweet taste sensitivity which can lead to an increase in sugar intake might be a factor driving them to overt diabetes. The aim of the present study was to assess the sweet taste sensitivity in pre-diabetics in comparison with diabetics and with normoglycemic controls.


Forty pre-diabetics, 40 diabetics and 34 normoglycemic controls were studied. The three groups were matched for age, sex and BMI. The division into groups was based on their glycated hemoglobin levels. The detection and recognition thresholds were determined by the multiple forced-choice method using sucrose solutions prepared in ¼ log dilutions. The intensities of perceived sensations for a series of suprathreshold concentrations of sucrose solutions prepared in ½ log dilution were determined by rating on a visual analogue scale. Statistical analyses were performed by SPSS version 21.


The mean (SD) detection thresholds of diabetic, pre-diabetic and normoglycemic groups were 0.025 (0.01), 0.018 (0.01) and 0.015 (0.01) respectively with a significant increase in diabetic group compared to normoglycemic group (p = 0.03). The mean recognition thresholds were not different among the three groups. When the intensity ratings for suprathreshold concentrations of sucrose were compared between the three groups, for all suprathreshold concentrations tested, significant differences were observed across the four concentrations (p < 0.001) and between groups in suprathreshold ratings (p < 0.05). Further analysis showed that the diabetic group had significantly lower suprathreshold ratings than the normoglycemic group (p < 0.001). Although all mean suprathreshold intensity ratings of the pre-diabetic group were between the normoglycemic and diabetic groups, the differences were not significant.


This is the first study to demonstrate the sweet taste sensitivity in pre-diabetics. The findings of the present study do not support the hypothesis of decreased sweet taste sensitivity of pre-diabetics. However, the results confirm the previous findings of blunted taste response in diabetics. The observation of pre-diabetics having intermediate values for all taste thresholds and suprathreshold ratings warrants a future investigation with a larger pre-diabetic sample recruited with more specific screening criteria to test this hypothesis further.

Pre-diabetes; Diabetes mellitus; Sweet taste; Detection threshold; Recognition threshold; Suprathreshold ratings