Sucrose-induced analgesia is related to sweet preferences in children but not adults

M. Yanina Pepino, Julie A. Mennella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study tested the hypothesis that the efficacy of sucrose in reducing pain during the Cold Pressor Test (CPT) was related to its hedonic value. To this aim, we determined the most preferred level of sucrose and the analgesic properties of 24% w/v sucrose during the CPT in 242, 5- to 10-year-old children and their mothers. Outcome measures included pain thresholds (the time at which discomfort was first indicated) and pain tolerance (the length of time the hand was kept in the cold water bath). Although children, as a group, preferred significantly higher sucrose concentrations than adults, there were individual differences that allowed us to group them on the basis of those who preferred sucrose concentrations below that used in the CPT (24% w/v) and those who preferred levels ≥24% w/v sucrose. Regardless of such groupings, sucrose was not an effective analgesic in adult women. Unlike adults, the more children liked sucrose, the better its efficacy as an analgesic. That is, children who preferred ≥24%w/v sucrose exhibited an increased latency to report pain and tolerated pain for significantly longer periods of time when sucrose was held in their mouths relative to water. This effect was more pronounced among normal weight when compared to overweight/at risk for overweight children. The role that dietary habits and individual differences contribute to the preferences for sweet taste and its physiological consequences in children is an important area for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-218
Number of pages9
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Dec 15 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Obesity
  • Sucrose
  • Sweet taste
  • Taste analgesia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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