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Higher sensitivity to sweet and salty taste in obese compared to lean individuals

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Hardikar,  Samyogita
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Villringer,  Arno
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Center for Stroke Research, Charité University Medicine Berlin, Germany;

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Citation

Hardikar, S., Höchenberger, R., Villringer, A., & Ohla, K. (2017). Higher sensitivity to sweet and salty taste in obese compared to lean individuals. Appetite, 111, 158-165. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2016.12.017.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-3CAA-7
Abstract
Although putatively taste has been associated with obesity as one of the factors governing food intake, previous studies have failed to find a consistent link between taste perception and Body Mass Index (BMI). A comprehensive comparison of both thresholds and hedonics for four basic taste modalities (sweet, salty, sour, and bitter) has only been carried out with a very small sample size in adults. In the present exploratory study, we compared 23 obese (OB; BMI > 30), and 31 lean (LN; BMI < 25) individuals on three dimensions of taste perception – recognition thresholds, intensity, and pleasantness – using different concentrations of sucrose (sweet), sodium chloride (NaCl; salty), citric acid (sour), and quinine hydrochloride (bitter) dissolved in water. Recognition thresholds were estimated with an adaptive Bayesian staircase procedure (QUEST). Intensity and pleasantness ratings were acquired using visual analogue scales (VAS). It was found that OB had lower thresholds than LN for sucrose and NaCl, indicating a higher sensitivity to sweet and salty tastes. This effect was also reflected in ratings of intensity, which were significantly higher in the OB group for the lower concentrations of sweet, salty, and sour. Calculation of Bayes factors further corroborated the differences observed with null-hypothesis significance testing (NHST). Overall, the results suggest that OB are more sensitive to sweet and salty, and perceive sweet, salty, and sour more intensely than LN.