In a recent study, scientists from Cornell have found that those with diminished ability in tasting food tend to go for higher amounts of sweetness in their food leading to weight gain. “We found that the more people lost sensitivity to sweetness, the more sugar they wanted in their foods,” said lead author Robin Dando to Cornell Chronicle. He is also the assistant professor of food science and his research has been published by the journal Appetite.
For this study Dando dulled the taste buds of the participants for a short while and asked them to consume food samples with varying levels of sugar content. In a blind test he asked them to have herbal tea with low, medium and high levels of Gymnema Sylvestre. This is a natural herb that blocks sweet receptors temporarily. The participants then began adding their preferred amounts of sweetness to the tea.
Unknowingly they ended up adding 8-12% sucrose. A soft drinks consists of 10% sugar. Dando claims that this wasn’t a coincidence and that the blocking of taste receptors led the participants to add high amounts of sugar. “Others have suggested that the overweight may have a reduction in their perceived intensity of taste. 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 adds.
Dando’s study “Participants With Pharmacologically Impaired Taste Function Seek Out More Intense, Higher Calorie Stimuli” Corinna A. Noel, Ph.D. ’17, and Meaghan Sugrue ’17 and supported by the American Heart Association. Dando says that this reduction in taste should be considered while studying rise of obesity. “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.” says Dando.