Obese children have less sensitive taste-buds than those of normal weight

September 19, 2012

Obese kids have less sensitive taste-buds than kids of normal weight, indicates research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

This blunted ability to distinguish all five tastes of bitter, sweet, salty, sour, and umami (savoury) may prompt them to eat larger quantities of food in a bid to register the same taste sensation, suggest the authors.

They base their findings on 94 and 99 obese children aged between 6 and 18, who were in good health and not taking any medications known to affect taste and smell.

The taste sensitivity of every child was tested using 22 "taste strips" placed on the , to include each of the five taste sensations, at four different levels of intensity, plus two blank strips.

Each child was asked to refrain from eating or drinking anything other than water and not to chew for at least an hour before they took the two tests, which involved identifying the different tastes and their intensity.

The sum of all five taste sensations at the four different intensities allowed for a maximum score of 20, with scores ranging from two to 19.

and older children were better at picking out the right tastes.

Overall, the children were best able to differentiate between sweet and salty, but found it hardest to distinguish between salty and sour, and between salty and umami.

And obese children found it significantly more difficult to identify the different taste sensations, scoring an average of 12.6 compared with an average of just over 14 clocked up by children of normal weight.

Obese children were significantly less likely to identify the individual taste sensations correctly, particularly salty, umami, and bitter.

And while both obese and normal weight children correctly identified all the differing levels of , obese kids rated three out of the four intensity levels lower than kids of normal weight.

Similarly, children of normal weight were better able to distinguish the different taste sensations, the older they were, but this trend was not seen among the .

Exactly why people have differing taste perceptions is unclear, but genes, hormones, acculturation and exposure to different tastes early in life are all thought to play a part, say the authors.

But previous research indicates that heightened sensitivity to different taste sensations may help to reduce the amount of food eaten as less is required to get the same "taste hit."

Explore further: One in ten kids have taste problems

More information: Differences in taste sensitivity between obese and non-obese children and adolescents, doi 10.1136/archdischild-2011-301189

Related Stories

One in ten kids have taste problems

April 18, 2011

The prevalence of taste disorders in Australian children could be three times above the level defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a major public health crisis, new UNSW research has found.

How do you stop tasting?

August 2, 2011

New findings may lend insight into why some people are especially sensitive to bitter tastes. Scientists from the Monell Center and Givaudan Flavors have identified a protein inside of taste cells that acts to shorten bitter ...

To get the full flavor, you need the right temperature

May 14, 2012

Can the temperature of the food we eat affect the intensity of its taste? It depends on the taste, according to a new study by Dr. Gary Pickering and colleagues from Brock University in Canada. Their work shows that changes ...

Recommended for you

A metabolic master switch underlying human obesity

August 19, 2015

Obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges of the 21st century. Affecting more than 500 million people worldwide, obesity costs at least $200 billion each year in the United States alone, and contributes to potentially ...

Scientists probe obesity's ties to breast cancer risk

August 20, 2015

Obesity is a well-known risk factor for breast cancer, but researchers haven't figured out what connects the two. A new study suggests the link may be due to a change in breast tissue structure, which might promote breast ...

Can a new drug brown the fat and trim the obese person?

May 28, 2015

New research has found that a variant of a drug used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension prompts weight loss in obese mice. Among mice fed a high-fat diet, those who did not get the medication became obese while medicated ...

Changing stem cell structure may help fight obesity

February 17, 2015

The research, conducted at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), found that a slight regulation in the length of primary cilia, small hair-like projections found on most cells, prevented the production of fat cells from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.