New Research Links Taste Sensitivity to Weight Problems

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  • A new study finds that taste sensitivity can be linked to obesity issues.

    German researchers found that obese children have less sensitive taste buds than children of normal weight, which can lead to overeating.

    The study examined the taste sensitivity of 200 children between the ages of 6 and 18. Over half of the children recruited were classified as obese. During the study, researches applied taste strips to each subject’s tongue to assess how they reacted to five taste sensations—sour, sweet, bitter, tangy, and savory. They also measured the intensity of each sensation.

    Study results showed that obese children had a harder time deciphering salty, bitter, and savory tastes than their normal weight peers. They also had difficulty distinguishing between what was salty and sour as well as what was bitter or savory.

    Out of all participants, girls and older children appeared to have the most well adept taste buds.

    When it came to having a sweet tooth, both normal weight and obese children had no trouble identifying the varying levels of sweetness. However, obese children were three out of four times more likely to experience the intensity lower than their normal weight peers.

    Although scientists cannot directly blame taste sensitivity for excessive weight gain or overeating, they do believe they hold a strong influence.

    “It could be a cause and an effect at the same time,” said Robin Dando, a professor in the food and science department at Cornell University. “Obese people may taste differently, but also their taste ability is contributing to their obesity.”

    Dando conducted his own research on the physiological effects of taste sensitivity. He found that age, sex, and experience typically shape taste sensitivities and preferences in addition to hormonal fluctuations.

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