Published on 1st August 2017


Coffee-drinkers who prefer a sweeter brew might baulk at the thought of going sugar-free. But new research published in the Journal of Health Psychology shows it needn’t be so difficult – they just need to be a bit more mindful.1 

Researchers from the University of Minnesota, USA, tested two interventions to help people switch to sugar-free coffee: a gradual reduction of sugar over two weeks; and mindfulness training where participants learnt how to drink coffee mindfully, by learning to focus on and appreciate the coffee. The latter group also received a coffee tasting introduction so they were able to detect and appreciate the sensory attributes of coffee (flavour, aftertaste, acidity, sweetness and mouthfeel). Both interventions were compared to a group that went cold-turkey and switched to sugar-free coffee without any strategy. The interventions were followed for two weeks, and 127 participants, aged 18-62 years, completed the study. Participants responded to a questionnaire after drinking their first cup of coffee each day during the intervention period and also one-month and six-months later.

The team found that “participants in all interventions had significant increases in consumption of sugar-free coffee that lasted six months”. However, those who were trained in mindfulness-based eating (adapted to coffee) had a larger increase than the others. What was unexpected, say the authors, was that “the gradual reduction intervention led to a decrease in liking for sugar-free coffee and was the least effective”.

Both the mindfulness group and cold-turkey group developed an enjoyment for sugar-free coffee and had stronger intentions to reduce their sugar in coffee long-term.

“Initiating change is relatively easy, but maintaining that change is nearly impossible,” Richie Lenne, one of study’s authors, told Reuters Health. “We fully expected most of our participants would revert back to sugar-laden coffee, yet the mindfulness group persisted in drinking coffee sugar-free.”2


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  1. Lenne RL & Mann T (2017). Reducing sugar use in coffee while maintaining enjoyment: A randomized controlled trial. J Health Psychol, 1359105317723452.