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Can Your Taste Buds Make You Gain Weight?

If you’ve ever struggled with your weight, then you know the many factors that are involved in the fight to lose stubborn pounds. Diet, exercise, heredity and lifestyle choices all play a role in weight control (or lack thereof). However, scientists are adding one more factor to the list: taste buds. Recent research suggests that people with less-sensitive taste receptors tend to have a higher body weight. Keep reading to find out why!

What exactly are taste buds?
The average person has about 10,000 taste buds on his or her tongue. Each and every taste bud has anywhere from 50 to 150 receptors. Each of those receptors has its own response to one of the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and Umami. One taste bud has taste cells that will represent four taste sensations. On your tongue the salty/sweet tasted buds are in the front, the sour taste buds run along the sides of the tongue and the bitter taste buds are in the back.

How do taste buds affect your weight?
There have been many studies done looking at how your ability to taste, impacts the food choices you make. Typically one would think that if you can’t taste it or if a food doesn’t have any taste to you then you wouldn’t eat it. Much like when you are not feeling well and everything tastes the same which then causes you to not want to eat. However, new research is actually showing the opposite to be true.

Which leads us to the question, can our taste buds make us fat? The answer is somewhat surprising. Yes they can but not in the way that you think.  According to registered dietician Megan Porter, “those with less sensitive taste tend to have higher body weight. Their inability to perceive the flavor of fat and the sweetness in sweet foods can lead to greater consumption of fats and sweets. This translates into more calories, and a more difficult time reaching or maintaining our goal weight.” 

The Research
This is further supported by neuroscientists at Penn State who released a study that showed fat on a body can hook the brain on junk food, due to the numbness of the taste buds. In this study the researchers looked at obesity, sense of taste and food habits. What they found was that over time, as a person gains weight, his or her taste buds become less sensitive to sweet foods. This decrease in sensitivity causes a person to eat more of those foods in an effort to taste them.

According to Andras Hajnal, an associate professor of Neural and Behavior sciences at Penn State, “When you have a reduced sensitivity to palatable foods, you tend to consume them in higher amounts.” This study on obesity and food intake has caused researchers to take a closer look at people’s sense of taste and how it can cause them to gain weight.

Another study done at Rutgers University showed that people with less sensitive taste buds were more inclined to eat foods that were fattier, sweeter, hotter and bitterer.  These results have been repeated at both Yale University and Connecticut University.

The bottom line is that your ability to taste the foods you are eating greatly impacts your overall body weight. If your taste buds are numb, it’s important to pay extra-careful attention to the foods you’re eating on a daily basis so you don’t fall into the “taste bud trap” of gaining weight.

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