The Role Of Human Orosensation in Alcohol Use Disorders
A common component of the diet for many societies, alcohol, when consumed in moderate amounts, may provide benefits to overall health by reducing anxiety, risk of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. However, high consumption over time is associated with increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD), and may lead to a number of other health issues. Many factors influence alcohol consumption patterns, including socioeconomic status, stress, and pre- and post- natal exposure to alcohol. Individual variation in orosensory(‘taste’) responsiveness (how intensely taste stimuli are perceived) can also influence alcohol use behaviors, including risk of dependence. This paper begins by reviewing the literature on orosensation and AUD, and concludes thatwhile taste is an importantfactor in alcohol intake and use disorder, no single taste-related factor can adequately predict alcohol behaviour. We then present a study from our lab that investigatesthe association between sweet-liking and responsiveness and AUD. Perception of sweetness has previously been linked toAUD, possibly due to the ability of both sucrose and ethanol to activate the opioid reward system in a similar way to reinforce use. Our non-clinical sample comprised of 223 male and female university students. Responsiveness to 3 sucrose-impregnated taste discs (9 g/l, LSD; 90 g/l, MSD; 900 g/l, HSD) were collected and used to classify participants as sweet-likers (HSD/LSD 1.5) or sweet-dislikers (HSD/LSD < 1.5). Data on familial history of alcoholism, alcohol intake, and hazardous drinking (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, AUDIT) were also collected. Two-way Analysis of Variance showed a significant main effect for sweet-liking on alcohol consumption in males (F (1) = 4.10, p = 0.04), with monthly intake (natural log transformed) of sweet-liking males higher than sweet-disliking males. However,AUDIT classification or family history of alcoholism did not vary withsweet-liking (ratio of HSD liking over LSD). We discuss how our results inform the hypothesis that ethanol and sucrose influence the natural reward system in the brain in a similar way to reinforce use.
Key words- Human health, Alcohol use disorders, Chemosensation, Taste