Obese people can’t taste sweetness as well as those at a healthy weight, due to fewer taste cells

Nov. 21, 2013, Medical Daily

By John Ericson

Obesity may make sweets less sweet, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Buffalo have discovered that in severely overweight mice, the tongue’s reaction to sweet stimuli is significantly less pronounced. The findings may help us understand how the current obesity epidemic transforms the way we interact with food.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study sought to quantify an obese individual’s physical reaction to a food category that tends to figure prominently during the development of the disease: sweets. Although previous inquiries have assessed the influence of obesity on nerves and peripheral taste systems, the current study is the first to focus on the tongue’s actual taste cells. “Studies have shown that obesity can lead to alterations in the brain, as well as the nerves that control the peripheral taste system, but no one had ever looked at the cells on the tongue that make contact with food,” lead author Kathryn Medler said in a press release. “What we see is that even at this level – at the first step in the taste pathway – the taste receptor cells themselves are affected by obesity.” Continue reading