Originally published on Savvy Auntie.
A recent HealthDay News report study has found that kids battling obesity issues “have less sensitive taste buds” than other children with normal weights. This lack of sensitivity—the diminished ability to distinguish between bitter, sweet, salty, sour, and savory—might have these children eating larger amounts of food in order to achieve the same taste sensations as the other children. The study did show a correlation between obesity and diminished sensitivity in taste buds, but a direct cause-and-effect relationship is yet to be determined.
The study was published in Archives of Disease in Childhood and involved 99 obese children and 94 children of normal weights, 6 to 18 years in age. All children had good health and were not taking any medications that might affect their senses of taste and smell. Taste sensitivity was tested with 22 taste strips placed over the tongue, which included each of the 5 types of taste at 4 different levels of intensity and 2 blank tastes.
Taste cells, gustatory cells, are clustered within the taste buds throughout the tongue, the roof of the mouth, and along the lining of the throat—contrary to the common misconception that different tastes are confined to certain separate regions of the tongue. Many of the small bumps on the tip of the tongue contain taste buds. When taste cells are stimulated, they send messages through specialized nerves to the brain, which then identifies the specific tastes.
The kids in the study were generally able to identify sweet and salty tastes, finding it hardest to distinguish between salty and sour, salty and savory. The girls and older children were better at identifying tastes.
Notable were the results coming from the obese kids, who had much more trouble identifying the different tastes and intensities than the kids with normal weights—according to Dr. Susanna Wiegand from the department of pediatric endocrinology and diabetology at the Charite University of Medicine in Berlin.
Prior research has shown that, depending on genes, hormones, and exposure to a variety of different tastes earlier in life, certain people with heightened taste sensitivity might eat less because they don’t require more food to gain the right amount of taste sensation.
Photo: Stuart Miles