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Obese people enjoy their food more — and this could be key to understanding obesity

The satisfaction obtained from eating can help to explain the propensity to overeat, according to a new study, which revealed that people with obesity have stronger and longer-lasting taste perceptions than people with normal weight.

Credit: Kevin Krejci (Flickr)

 

The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, analyzed the satisfaction obtained from eating food. While there was no significant difference between individuals with normal weight and overweight, there was a difference with obese people. Simply put, obese people seem to enjoy their food more.

“If people with obesity have different taste perceptions than nonobese people, it could lead to a better understanding of obesity and possibly designing new approaches to prevent obesity,” explained lead investigator Linnea A. Polgreen from the University of Iowa.

The more you eat something, the more you derive less pleasure from it — which leads to a decline in taste perception. The relationship between perceived taste and quantity consumed has traditionally been referred to as sensory-specific satiety.

Researchers at the University of Iowa carried out a trial with 290 adults to measure their taste perceptions and understand how they differed among those with normal weight, those with overweight and those with obesity.

All participants were offered one piece of chocolate at a time and they could eat as much as they wanted without feeling uncomfortable. They consumed between two and 51 pieces. Half of the study participants received nutritional information about the chocolate before the test began.

Researchers found that individuals with obesity had higher levels of initial taste perception and rated subsequent pieces higher than their counterparts without obesity. Their ratings also declined at a more gradual rate compared to participants with normal weight and those with obesity.

At the same time, they discovered that people hungrier prior to the study had greater taste perception and that women’s taste perceptions declined faster than men. Providing nutritional information prior to chocolate consumption did not affect taste perception.

“People with obesity reported a higher level of satisfaction for each additional piece of chocolate compared to nonobese people. Thus, their taste preferences appear markedly different,” said Aaron Miller, co-investigator. “Obese participants needed to consume a greater quantity of chocolate than nonobese participants to experience a similar decline in taste perceptions.”

The findings from the research could help think about new strategies to deal with obesity, a significant public health problem that affects 30% of the US population. Understanding and manipulating taste perceptions, in addition to targeting nutritional awareness, may be crucial to understanding and preventing obesity. one of the most challenging issues of our times.