PNAS: Heavy Water Tastes Sweeter

In the 1930s, scientists discovered a heavier form of water. So-called “heavy water” (D2O) weighs more because the nucleus of each of its two hydrogen atoms contains not just a proton but a neutron as well. Known as deuterium, heavy hydrogen causes subtle differences in heavy water—from small increases in boiling and freezing points to a roughly 10% increase in density.

Now, an international team of researchers has confirmed another difference long rumored to be true: Heavy water tastes sweet. “It’s a very gentle sweetness,” says study author Masha Niv, a taste scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “It’s not like Sweet’n Low.”

Heavy water won’t work as a sweetener. Indeed, in large quantities, it’s lethal. But the work, recently reported in Communications Biology, could inspire a deeper understanding of how the sweet taste receptor works.

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