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People with diminished taste sensitivity likelier to choose sweet fare
Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
New York
Cornell food scientists have found that people with a diminished ability to taste food choose sweeter – and likely higher-calorie – fare. This could put people on the path to gaining weight.

This was the finding of a study, titled Participants with Pharmacologically-impaired Taste Function Seek Out More Intense, Higher-calorie Stimuli, whose lead author was Robin Dando, assistant professor, department of food science, Cornell University.

It was officially published for October 1, 2017, and co-authored by Corinna A Noel and Meaghan Sugrue. The research was supported in part by the American Heart Association.

“We found that the more people lost sensitivity to sweetness, the more sugar they wanted in their foods,” said Dando.

Nutritionists, researchers and doctors have long suspected a connection between diminished taste sensitivity and obesity, but no one had tested if losing taste altered the intake.

In his research, which has been published online by the journal Appetite, he temporarily dulled the taste-buds of the study participants and had them sample foods of varying sugar concentrations.

For the blind tests, the researchers provided participants with an herbal tea with low, medium or high concentrations of a naturally-occurring herb, Gymnema Sylvestre, which is known to temporarily block sweet receptors.

During the testing, the participants added their favoured levels of sweetness to bland concoctions.

Without realising it, they gravitated to eight to 12 per cent sucrose. Soft drinks generally contain about per cent sugar.

“That’s not a coincidence,” said Dando. But those participants with their taste receptors blocked began to prefer higher concentrations of sugar.

“Others have suggested that the overweight may have a reduction in their perceived intensity of taste,” Dando said.

“So, if an overweight or obese person has a diminished sense of taste, our research shows that they may begin to seek out more intense stimuli to attain a satisfactory level of reward,” he added.

“This can influence their eating habits to compensate for a lower taste response,” Dando said.

The study showed that for a regular, sugary 16-ounce soft drink, a person with a 20 per cent reduction in the ability to taste sweet would crave an extra teaspoon of sugar to reach an optimal level of sweetness, as compared to someone with unaltered taste response.

Stated Dando, “The gustatory system – that is, the taste system we have – may serve as an important nexus in understanding the development of obesity. With this in mind, taste dysfunction should be considered as a factor.”
 
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