WASHINGTON (CBS WASHINGTON) — Obese children have less sense of taste in comparison to kids of a healthy weight.

These children have a dulled ability to distinguish the five tastes of bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami (an earthy, aromatic flavor). This may prompt obese children to eat larger quantities in order to get the same taste sensation, a new study suggests.

The results are based on a study of 94 normal weight and 99 obese children ages 6 to 18, who were in good health and not taking any medications known to affect taste and smell, My Health News Daily stated.

Participants tasted 22 “taste strips,” which were placed on the tongue — for each of the five taste sensations, there were four strips of varying intensity — for example, a very salty strip, a salty strip, a somewhat salty strip, and a slightly salty strip — plus two blank strips. The kids were asked to identify the taste of each strip, and rank them by their intensities.

Children could score a maximum of 20 points, by correctly identifying all five types of tastes at the four different intensities. Scores ranged from two to 19.

Overall, the children were best able to differentiate between sweet and salty, but found it hardest to distinguish between salty and sour, and between salty and umami. Obese children found it significantly more difficult to identify the different taste sensations, scoring an average of 12.6, compared with an average of just over 14 by children of normal weight.

Girls and older children were better at picking out the right tastes, according to the researchers.

Previous research has indicated that intensified sensitivity to different taste sensations may help to reduce the amount of food eaten as less is required to get the same “taste hit,” the researchers said.

According to the study authors, it is unclear why humans have differing taste perceptions, but genetics, hormones, cultural experiences, and exposure to different tastes early in life are all thought to play a part.


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