science of us

Can This Lozenge Prevent Me From Enjoying Halloween Candy?

Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Stokes/Getty Images.

In an email, a spokeswoman for pleasure-thwarting Sweet Defeat lozenges told me that a single lozenge could block my ability to enjoy candy’s sweetness (for an hour). She also said that the lozenges were “clinically proven to reduce the short-term consumption of high-sugar foods.”

I was skeptical, but it also sounded fun — and a little diabolical — so I asked for a sample. Her instructions were to eat some candy, then a Sweet Defeat lozenge, and then some candy again — “and you’ll see what happens: you can taste everything except the sugar.”

Made with zinc, mint, and “gymnema leaf extract,” the lozenges are supposed to block the tongue’s sweetness receptors. The company suggests consuming them “immediately after any meal or snack.”

Photo: Edith Zimmerman

So I ate some candy corn and popped a Sweet Defeat lozenge. It was minty and Altoid-y, tasting chalky and almost metallic, but not in a bad way. As I waited for it to dissolve, I read the study on gymnema leaf extract that the spokeswoman had sent me, published earlier this month in the journal of Physiology & Behavior (and underwritten by the makers of Sweet Defeat). The lozenges reduce “both pleasantness (liking) of high-sugar foods and desire for (wanting of) high-sugar foods,” the study concluded.

The gymnema plant, a.k.a. Gymnema sylvestere, is a woody vine native to India, Africa, and Australia. The leaf extract is used in Ayurvedic medicine, and in Hindi the plant’s common name, gurmar, means “sugar destroyer.” Gymnema extract is supposed to suppress only the sensation of sweetness, leaving salty, sour, and bitter receptors alone.

Consistent with their findings, once the lozenge I’d tried had finally dissolved, I had no interest in eating more candy (or anything at all), due to the full-mouth residual chalky, minty-ness, but as instructed I had some more.

By this point I’d become pretty on board with the gymnema leaf extract, as well as with the idea that something could mess with my taste buds, so I was disappointed when … I could still totally enjoy the sweetness of the candy corn.

I had been hoping to taste whatever it is behind the sugar that gives candy corn its strange and wonderful waxiness, for instance, but oh well. Maybe I’ll try it again with some Sour Patch Kids Candy Corn.

Can This Lozenge Prevent Me From Enjoying Halloween Candy?