As people begin to put on excessive weight, their sensitiveness to the taste of foods also begins to change, as emerges from latest studies. It especially concerns sweet foods.
Having conducted a series of experiments on mice, American boffins came to the conclusion that obesity affects the way mice – and with a high degree of probability humans as well – are able to feel the taste of food.
The study that appeared in the journal PLOS ONE investigates taste abilities of 25 common mice and 25 mice of the same litter who got obese after being fed on a fat-replete diet. As the two groups of mice were fed, a process known as calcium signaling showed when the tastebuds of the rodents reacted to particular tastes. Recognition of a taste led to a temporary change in the level of calcium that could easily be measured.
The rodents that were grossly overweight proved to be noticeably less susceptible to sweetness. It appears that mice who are slim have more taste cells recognizing sweet flavors as compared to fatter mice and consequently reacted stronger to sweet stimuli.
These findings can bring a new insight on how excessive weight changes our attitude to food – and probably help discover ways to set things right.
It has long been well-known that obesity causes changes in the functioning of the brain and the nerves connected with the peripheral taste system, explained Dr Kathryn Medler, based at the University of Buffalo. But no research had been done before on the tongue cells in particular, and now it appears that at the very first stage of food intake the response to the taste can be very different – sharper with slim animals and duller with fatter ones.
There was found no direct correlation between the level of responding to sweetness and putting on weight, yet it’s understandable now that overweight people have a tooth for sweets. According to Dr Medler, since obese mice cannot appreciate sweet foods as they would like to, they begin to eat more in an attempt to satisfy the desire for sweetness.
She is positive that once the scientists understand what happens with the taste cells, new treatments can be worked out to restore their responding abilities. All the more so since, due to their location, the tongue cells are more easily accessible than those in the brain.
It is the same with bitter tastes – the fatter mice’s response was degrees weaker – and with umami, a flavor contained in savory dishes.