A threatened species native to the Himalayas is helping to shed light on how we taste sugary sweet foods — researchers have found that red pandas unexpectedly have a sweet tooth for aspartame, better known to soda drinkers as NutraSweet.
The researchers tested the taste preferences for six artificial and six natural sugars. Each animal was given access to a sweet solution and water for 24 hours. If the animal drank more of the sweet solution, that was taken as a preference for it.
As expected, the lion, a cat, did not prefer any of the sweet solutions. The remaining species preferred at least some of the natural sugars.
But surprisingly, the red panda drank large amounts of the artificial sweeteners aspartame, neotame and sucralose.