Does Childhood Weight Affect Taste Buds?
When it comes to taste buds, every person is unique. Do you like hot sauce, but loathe onions? Or do you prefer something sweet to something savory? These preferences can be caused by your genes and also by acquired tasting – that is, eating something enough to tolerate it. A recent study suggests that taste-bud sensitivity may also be linked to the risk of obesity in children. German researchers found that obese kids have less sensitive taste buds than normal weight children. In the study, the researchers observed 193 children aged 6 to 18. Roughly half of the kids were normal weight and half were obese. Researchers placed 22 taste strips on the children’s tongues, representing each of the five types of taste — sweet, sour, salty, savory and bitter — at four levels of intensity, as well as two blank strips. The participants were asked to identify each of the tastes and to rank each taste strip’s level of intensity. Kids were better able to tell the difference between tastes as they grew older; except for the children identified as obese. All of the kids correctly identified the different sweetness intensity levels; however, most of the higher intensity strips were rated weaker overall by the obese kids than the average-weight kids. This study highlights an association between taste bud sensitivity and childhood obesity, but it does not define the exact association between the two. One possibility is that kids who have less sensitive taste buds may be more vulnerable to weight gain and the other possibility is that obesity might somehow reduce taste-bud responsiveness. Whatever the association, it is important to remember that your weight has an effect on your teeth and maybe your taste buds!