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Obese Children Have Less Sensitive Taste Buds: Study

Update Date: Oct 27, 2012 08:05 AM EDT

A new study suggests that obese children eat more food because their taste buds aren't sharp enough, and to get the same taste hit, they end up eating more.

Scientists from the Charité University Hospital in Berlin compared obese children to those of normal weight and found that the taste buds of obese children were less sensitive, which blunted their ability to distinguish all five tastes of bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami - savoury. Hence, it is to compensate for the lack of taste sensation that they end up gorging on more food, Mail Online reported.

It was found that while the ability of all children was the same when it came to tasting sweet, the ability to taste the other four types in obese children was lower.

For the study, the researchers looked at 94 children of normal weight and 99 who were obese, aged between 6 and 18. All the children were healthy and were not under any medication that could affect their sense of smell or taste.

To taste the sensitivity of children, researchers used 22 'taste strips' with the five different taste sensations, at four different levels of intensity, plus two blank strips.

The children were then asked to sum up all different tastes, the level of intensity, and rate them out of a score of 20.

Findings of the tests revealed that girls and older children were better able to distinguish, rate and describe the taste and intensity. It was found that overall, all children were able to best differentiate between sweet and salty, while they found it pretty hard to distinguish between salty and sour, and between salty and savoury.

Further findings revealed that it was significantly difficult for obese children to identify the different taste sensations, and particularly, they had problems identifying salty, savoury and bitter. On an average, they scored only about 12.6, whereas children of normal weight scored a little over 14.

Also, it was found that as children of normal weight got older, they were better able to differentiate between the taste sensations. However, nothing of this sort was seen to happen with obese children.

According to scientists, genes, hormones, acculturation and exposure to different tastes early in life are responsible in their own ways for the same, the report said.

The findings are published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

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