Sweet rules: Parental restriction linked to lower free sugar and higher fruit intake in 4–7-year-old children

Carina Mueller*, Gertrude G. Zeinstra, Ciarán G. Forde, Gerry Jager

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In the Netherlands, 4–8-year-old children consume proportionally the highest amounts of free sugars among all age groups, and in European countries, children's sugar intake exceeds the World Health Organization's recommendation. Restricting children's access to sugary products could help reduce this consumption. However, it is unclear whether and how restriction is linked to children's sugar intake and sweet taste preference. This study investigated the relationship between parental restriction of sugary products, children's free sugar and fruit intake, as well as their sweet taste preference. Parents (N = 243) of 4–7-year-old children were asked to complete a survey that asked for their child's consumption of fruits and free-sugar-containing products via a three-day food recall (three specified, non-consecutive days). Parental restriction was assessed via the Restricted Access Questionnaire. In a subset of children (N = 60), psycho-hedonic functions were mapped using the Monell two-series forced-choice paired comparison tracking test to estimate children's optimal sweet taste preference. Regression analyses showed that more restricted children consumed less free sugars but more fruits than less restricted children as reported by the parents (p < 0.05). Parental restriction was unrelated to children's sweet taste preference. In conclusion, our results imply that restriction is negatively linked to free sugar intake, positively linked to fruit consumption, and unrelated to sweet taste preference in 4–8-year-olds. Future research is needed to determine the causal and long-term effects of parental restrictions on children's sugar intake and sweet taste preference.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105071
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • Children
  • Fruit intake
  • Parental restriction
  • Sugar consumption
  • Sweet taste preference


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