Estrogen increases the taste threshold for sucrose in rats

Kathleen S. Curtis, Jennifer M. Stratford, Robert J. Contreras

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56 Scopus citations


Anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that females' preferences for sweet foods are affected by hormonal fluctuations across the reproductive cycle. In rats, the preference for sweet foods may involve estrogen-mediated changes in response to the taste of sweets. Our recent work showed that ovariectomized female rats lick less to dilute sucrose solutions when given estrogen than when given the oil vehicle. These findings suggest that estrogen decreases the preference for less concentrated sucrose solutions; however, an alternative explanation is that estrogen interferes with the ability to detect dilute sucrose solutions. To distinguish between these possibilities, we conditioned a taste aversion to 0.2 M sucrose in ovariectomized rats by pairing it with injection of LiCl and then examined the generalization of that taste aversion to 0.075 and 0.025 M sucrose solutions during estrogen or oil treatment. Oil-treated rats generalized the LiCl-induced aversion conditioned to 0.2 M sucrose to both 0.075 and 0.025 M sucrose. Estrogen-treated rats generalized the LiCl-induced taste aversion to 0.075 M sucrose but not to 0.025 M sucrose. Moreover, two weeks later, when estrogen had cleared the system, both groups generalized the aversion to both 0.075 and 0.025 M sucrose. These results show that estrogen affects the ability to discriminate dilute sucrose from water and suggest that estrogen may have short-term effects on the detection threshold for sucrose taste in rats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-286
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2005


  • Conditioned taste aversion
  • Gustation
  • Reproductive hormones
  • Sweet taste


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