Sweet flavorants enhance palatability and intake of alcohol in adolescent humans. We asked whether sweet flavorants have similar effects in adolescent rats. The inherent flavor of ethanol in adolescent rats is thought to consist of an aversive odor, bitter/sweet taste, and burning sensation. In Experiment 1, we compared ingestive responses of adolescent rats to 10% ethanol solutions with or without added flavorants using brief-access lick tests. We used 4 flavorants, which contained mixtures of saccharin and sucrose or saccharin, sucrose, and maltodextrin. The rats approached (and initiated licking from) the flavored ethanol solutions more quickly than they did unflavored ethanol, indicating that the flavorants attenuated the aversive odor of ethanol. The rats also licked at higher rates for the flavored than unflavored ethanol solutions, indicating that the flavorants increased the naso-oral acceptability of ethanol. In Experiment 2, we offered rats chow, water, and a flavored or unflavored ethanol solution every other day for 8 days. The rats consistently consumed substantially more of the flavored ethanol solutions than unflavored ethanol across the 8 days. When we switched the rats from the flavored to unflavored ethanol for 3 days, daily intake of ethanol plummeted. We conclude that sweet and sweet/maltodextrin flavorants promote high daily intake of ethanol in adolescent rats (i.e., 6–10 g/kg) and that they do so in large part by improving the naso-oral sensory attributes of ethanol.

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