(HealthDay News) – Obese children are less able than their normal-weight peers to identify taste qualities, according to a study published online Sept 20 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Johanna Overberg, from Charité Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, and colleagues analyzed gustatory sensitivity of 99 obese children (body mass index [BMI] >97th percentile) and 94 normal-weight subjects (BMI <90th percentile), aged 6–18 years, using taste strips in different concentrations. Sensitivity for the taste qualities sweet, salty, sour, umami, and bitter was analyzed, and a total score was determined for all qualities combined.

The researchers found that obese participants had a significantly lower ability to identify the correct taste qualities, resulting in a lower total score compared with normal-weight children. For individual taste qualities, obese subjects had a significantly lower detection rate for salty, umami, and bitter. Age and gender influenced taste perception, with older participants and females better able to identify taste qualities. Obese children gave significantly lower intensity ratings to three of the four sweet concentrations.

“The results of this study support the hypothesis that obese and non-obese children and adolescents differ in their taste perception,” the authors write. “Further studies on taste sensitivity and hormonal status in obese subjects are required. Eventually, this could help develop further strategies of obesity prevention and therapy in childhood. Nutritional education could already focus on taste preferences.”

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