Smoking may dull obese women's ability to taste fat and sugar

Smoking may dull obese women's ability to taste fat and sugar
Washington University investigator M. Yanina Pepino, Ph.D., has found that cigarette smoking among obese women interferes with the ability to taste fats and sweets and may drive them to consume more calories. Credit: Robert Boston

Cigarette smoking among obese women appears to interfere with their ability to taste fats and sweets, a new study shows. Despite craving high-fat, sugary foods, these women were less likely than others to perceive these tastes, which may drive them to consume more calories.

M. Yanina Pepino, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Julie Mennella, PhD, a biopsychologist at the Monell Center in Philadelphia, where the research was conducted, studied four groups of women ages 21 to 41: obese smokers, obese nonsmokers, smokers of normal weight and nonsmokers of . The women tasted several vanilla puddings containing varying amounts of fat and were asked to rate them for and creaminess, a measure of fat content.

"Compared with the other three groups, smokers who were obese perceived less creaminess and sweetness," Pepino said. "They also derived less pleasure from tasting the puddings."

The findings are published in the April issue of the journal Obesity.

Pepino cautioned that the study only identified associations between and taste rather than definitive reasons why obese smokers were less likely to detect fat and sweetness. But the findings imply that the ability to perceive fat and sweetness—and to derive pleasure from food—is compromised in who are obese, which could contribute to the consumption of more calories.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
People who smoke tend to eat more high-fat foods. So do obese people. Now investigators, led by a nutrition researcher at Washington University School Of Medicine in St. Louis, are reporting that obese women who smoke have a hard time perceiving fat and sweetness in food, and they also get less enjoyment from tasting food than the other women who were studied, Jim Dryden reports. Credit: Washington University BioMed Radio

"Obese people often crave high-fat foods," she said. "Our findings suggest that having this intense craving but not perceiving fat and sweetness in food may lead these women to eat more. Since smoking and obesity are risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, the additional burden of craving more fats and sugars, while not fully tasting them, could be detrimental to health."

Interestingly, it was the combination of smoking and obesity that created something of a "double-whammy" because smokers who were not overweight could perceive fat and sweetness that was similar to women who did not smoke.

Previous studies have linked smoking to increased food cravings and greater consumption of fat, regardless of whether a smoker is obese. Studies also have found that smokers tend to have increased waist-to-hip ratios. That is, they tend to be shaped more like apples than pears, another risk factor for heart disease and metabolic problems.

The findings contribute to a growing body of knowledge that challenges the lingering perception that smoking helps a person maintain a healthy weight.

"Women are much more likely than men to take up smoking as an aid to weight control," Pepino said. "But there is no good evidence showing that it helps maintain a over the long term. And in the case of who smoke, it appears the smoking may make things even worse than previously thought."

More information: Pepino MY, Mennella JA, Cigarette smoking and obesity are associated with decreased fat perception in women. Obesity, vol. 22 (4), pp. 1050-1055. April 2014.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Smokers' bitter taste buds may be on the fritz

Mar 24, 2014

Smokers and those who have quit cannot fully appreciate the full flavor of a cup of coffee, because many cannot taste the bitterness of their regular caffeine kick. This is the finding of a study led by Nelly Jacob of the ...

Recommended for you

When you lose weight, where does the fat go?

Dec 16, 2014

Despite a worldwide obsession with diets and fitness regimes, many health professionals cannot correctly answer the question of where body fat goes when people lose weight, a UNSW Australia study shows.

Shed post-Christmas pounds just by breathing

Dec 16, 2014

Ever wondered where the fat goes when somebody loses weight? Most of it is breathed out as carbon dioxide, making the lungs the primary excretory organ for weight loss, explain Australian researchers in the ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

throne23m
not rated yet May 27, 2014
Smoking is not good for health. It probably may cause heart disease, cancer, heart stroke, emphysema and more. Smoking may also cause premature aging, impotence, increased infections and more. It may also cause more hot flashes during menopause. Read more:
http://www.consum...831.html
http://www.webmd....n?page=3
http://www.webmd....-flashes

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.