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Hunger Sharpens Your Taste Buds

It boosts ability to taste sweet and salty foods, study finds

THURSDAY, Feb. 26, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- This likely won't be much comfort to dieters, but hunger may actually heighten your ability to taste food, says a University of Malawi study in the current issue of BMC Neuroscience.

The study, which found that missing breakfast increases sensitivity to sweet and salty tastes, says this boost in taste may be caused by an increased sensitivity of the taste receptors on the tongue or by a change in the way you perceive the same taste stimuli.

Sixteen male volunteers skipped breakfast and then sipped sugar, salt, or quinine solutions of different concentrations. They were asked to rate the fluids as sweet, salty, or bitter. They repeated the taste tests an hour after they had lunch.

The study found that when the volunteers were hungry, they were more sensitive to the presence of salt and sugar in the drinks. But hunger didn't increase their ability to detect bitterness. This difference could be due to the different roles of the tastes.

Sweet and salty tastes are indicators of edible substances, while a bitter taste indicates a substance, possibly toxic, that should not be eaten.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about taste buds.

SOURCE: BioMed Central, news release, Feb. 18, 2004
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