Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) affects approximately 1 in 10,000 people. During the fetal and neonatal stages PWS is characterized by poor feeding, decreased fetal movements, sticky saliva, abnormal/absence of cry, and genital hypoplasia. As the subjects grow older, they commonly develop a big appetite, which often leads to obesity. Some research has shown that individuals with PWS may exhibit taste preferences, specifically the taste sensation of sweetness.
A single-blind study was performed to evaluate the sweetness thresholds/preferences in individuals with PWS. The subjects included nine participants with PWS and six control subjects. Water was sweetened to levels of 0.75%, 1.0%, 1.25%, and 1.5% with sucrose, fructose, and aspartame. All subjects were then asked to taste a sweetened sample and compare it to distilled water. An answer was considered "correct" if the participant could pick out the sweetened sample. A triangle test was conducted with applesauce.
At the lowest sweetness level, 0.75%, only 22.2% of PWS subjects cold detect sweetness in the sucrose sample compared to 100% of the control subjects. With fructose-sweetened water, 66.7% of PWS participants and 83.3% of the controls could taste sweetness at this low level. There was no difference in numbers between the groups when testing for aspartame-sweetened water. Individuals with PWS exhibited a higher preference for the sweetened water (77.8%) compared with only 50% of the controls.
The results from the applesauce trials showed that PWS subjects could not significantly differentiate between the types of sweeteners. Since obesity is commonly a problem in this situation, one idea might be to use a lower-calorie, more potent sweetener to sweeten foods. Additional research should be performed, which may include a fairly new sweetener approved by the FDA, sucralose.
Michelle E. Prince and Carolyn J. Hoffman, Sweetness Thresholds and Preferences of Individuals with Prader-Willi Syndrome, Topics in Clinical Nutrition, 14(4): 58-63 (September 1999)
COPYRIGHT 1999 Technical Insights, a divison of John Wiley & Sons.
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