Here’s one of the weirder side effects of gaining weight: Your sense of taste becomes less strong. Scientists have long wondered about this phenomena and recently turned to lab mice to investigate how and why this happens.

Cornell University researchers fed mice a high-fat diet, which led to rapid weight gain. They then examined their tongues. When compared to a control group which was fed a normal diet, the obese mice had 25 percent less taste buds (you know, those clusters of cells that allow us to detect sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami flavors). Scientists have theorized that inflammation caused by obesity can interrupt the regeneration of taste buds, accounting for the overall lower amount. These findings were published in the journal PLOS Biology.

So what does this mean for humans? Obviously, taste preferences play a huge part in what we choose to eat. If you’re detecting less flavor, you may try to compensate for weakened taste by eating larger portions or fattier foods. While this theory has yet to be proven, this latest study does shed some insight into how weight gain can alter our sense of taste, and could play a pivotal role in the fight against obesity. At the very least, it certainly explains why we’re going for that second slice of pie.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Cornell University food scientist Robin Dando, whose lab led the research said, “This could be a whole new kind of target in treating obesity. People don’t really look at the taste bud, but it’s so fundamental.”

These findings could also have brought greater attention to mindful eating habits. Experts suggest slowing down, taking in the smell of food, and chewing at least 30 times per bite to have a more satisfying meal experience. Now that’s something to chew on.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Jessica is an Associate Editor at Chowhound. Follow her on Twitter @volume_knob for updates on snacks and cats.
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