Obesity: How Sweet It’s Not

A new study in PLOS ONE adds to the evidence on how obesity alters the way food tastes — especially sweet foods. Investigators at the University of Buffalo found that diet-induced obesity in mice resulted in fewer cells in the tongue that respond to sweetness. And the cells that were present were less sensitive to sweetness than those in lean mice.

Said lead investigator Kathryn Medler:

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. 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. The obese mice have fewer taste cells that respond to sweet stimuli, and they don’t respond as well.

Research on taste, food preferences, and obesity has been a subject of great interest for at least 60 years. The methods are still evolving and you can find plenty of contradictory observations.

No doubt, taste is an important part of the neurological mechanisms driving obesity. Figuring out how it works is devilishly complex.

Enjoy your pie.

Click here to read more in Medical Daily, click here to read the study in PLOS ONE, and click here to read more on the subject in Nature.

Pumpkin Pie, photograph © waferboard / flickr

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