Three Men Tasting Wine

Good Taste in Treatment for Obesity – Biologically

New research at the annual Endocrine Society meeting in Boston suggests that semaglutide treatment may work in part through enhancement of taste sensitivity in persons with obesity – especially sensitivity to the sweetness of foods. Mojca Jensterle Sever presented the results. She explained:

“Some studies have reported that individuals living with obesity often perceive tastes as less intense. Populations prone to obesity may have an inherently elevated desire for sweet and energy-dense foods.

“Our study should be seen and interpreted as a proof-of-concept study.”

In other words, these are very interesting findings, but much more research is necessary to fully understand the role of taste in obesity treatment.

A Small RCT in Women with PCOS

Sever’s study was a small randomized controlled trial of semaglutide 1 mg or placebo weekly. The subjects were 30 women with obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Their average age was 34 and their average BMI was 36. Women with PCOS were the study’s target population with an “aim to reduce variability in taste perception across different phases of the menstrual cycle.” The small size and the limited aims of this study leave us with many unanswered questions.

Professor Gitanjali Srivastava moderated the session where Sever presented these results. She has a perspective on the questions that arise:

“These findings are fascinating, because we think about all of the factors that this new class of agents are able to improve. But taste is often not something that we look at, though there have been very strong associations. Is it possible that another mechanism of action for this class of agents is perhaps indirectly altering our taste perception? Because of that, do we have an altered sense of satiety and hunger?”

Much to Learn

This research is new. The full details are yet to be published in a journal with peer review. But it is clearly important work.

In the New England Journal of Medicine last month, Josephine Egan explained in great detail how the physiology of taste and metabolism work closely together. A recent review in the International Journal of Obesity tells us clearly: the work on the taste effects of GLP-1 agonists is important, but it is at a very early stage.

We have much to learn.

Click here for the study abstract from ENDO 2024, here, here, and here for further reporting on it. Egan’s review in NEJM is here. The review in IJO is here.

Three Men Tasting Wine, painting by Joseph-Noël Sylvestre / WikiArt

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June 4, 2024

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