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Letter to the Editor   |    
High Sucrose Preference in Alcoholic Men
Alan R. Hirsch, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 1997;154:1631-1631.

TO THE EDITOR: Alexey Kampov-Polevoy, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues (1) demonstrated an enhanced preference for sweet solutions in alcoholic men and suggested that this may indicate a generalized alteration in rewarding response to hedonic stimuli in those with alcohol dependence. Instead, their findings may reflect a chemosensory adjustment to the effect of alcohol on the olfactory system. Both acute alcohol intoxication (2) and chronic alcoholism (3) are associated with an impaired olfactory ability. Smell is approximately 90% of what is described as "taste" or flavor; hyposmic individuals perceive food as bland or tasteless (4). In order to compensate, spices and enhanced true taste (e.g., sugar) are added to food (5). Therefore, through a learned response paradigm, these alcoholic men may have developed preference for a higher concentration of sugars, even in the absence of other foods. Alternatively, because of chronic excess daily use of sugars, they may have induced an up-regulation of their sweet taste receptors, raising their sucrose threshold, and the associated sucrose hedonic curve (6).

Thus, preference for higher sucrose concentration in alcoholic men may just represent a behavioral compensatory response for those with alcohol-induced olfactory loss.

Kampov-Polevoy A, Garbutt JC, Janowsky D: Evidence of preference for a high-concentration sucrose solution in alcoholic men. Am J Psychiatry  1997; 154:269–270
[PubMed]
 
Hirsch AR, Russell GS: Effects of inebriation on olfaction. Investigative Med  1995; 43:422A
 
Mair RG, Doty RL, Kelly KM, Wilson CS, Langlias PS, McEntree WJ, Vollmecke TA: Multimodal sensory discrimination deficits in Korsakoff's psychosis. Neuropsychologia  1986; 24:831–839
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Hirsch AR: Olfaction in migraineurs. Headache  1992; 32:233–236
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Ferris AM, Schlitzer JL, Schierberl MJ, Catalanotto FA, Gent J, Peterson MG, Bartoshuk LM, Cain WS, Goodspeed RB, Leonard G, Donaldson JO: Anosmia and nutritional status. Nutr Res  1985; 5:149–156
[CrossRef]
 
Contreras RJ: Gustatory mechanisms of a specific appetite, in Neural Mechanisms in Taste. Edited by Cagan RH. Boca Raton, Fla, CRC Press, 1989, pp 119–145
 
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References

Kampov-Polevoy A, Garbutt JC, Janowsky D: Evidence of preference for a high-concentration sucrose solution in alcoholic men. Am J Psychiatry  1997; 154:269–270
[PubMed]
 
Hirsch AR, Russell GS: Effects of inebriation on olfaction. Investigative Med  1995; 43:422A
 
Mair RG, Doty RL, Kelly KM, Wilson CS, Langlias PS, McEntree WJ, Vollmecke TA: Multimodal sensory discrimination deficits in Korsakoff's psychosis. Neuropsychologia  1986; 24:831–839
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Hirsch AR: Olfaction in migraineurs. Headache  1992; 32:233–236
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Ferris AM, Schlitzer JL, Schierberl MJ, Catalanotto FA, Gent J, Peterson MG, Bartoshuk LM, Cain WS, Goodspeed RB, Leonard G, Donaldson JO: Anosmia and nutritional status. Nutr Res  1985; 5:149–156
[CrossRef]
 
Contreras RJ: Gustatory mechanisms of a specific appetite, in Neural Mechanisms in Taste. Edited by Cagan RH. Boca Raton, Fla, CRC Press, 1989, pp 119–145
 
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