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Decreased taste sensitivity after bariatric surgery may help weight loss

Posted:  Monday, November 10, 2014

Obese people undergoing bariatric surgery may benefit greatly in more than one way. Researchers from Stanford University found that bariatric surgery patients who reported a decrease in taste sensitivity experienced increased weight loss three months post surgery as compared to patients who reported an increase in taste sensitivity.

These interesting findings were presented at the 31st Annual Meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. According to the researchers, patients who undergo bariatric surgery usually report a change in taste perception. However, there is little evidence on how and why these changes influence weight loss.

The study included 88 patients with severe obesity and an average age of 49.2 years, and a control group of non-obese individuals. Females with an average preoperative body mass index (BMI) of 45.3 comprised more than half the obese group. Prior to the surgery, the obese group reported lower total taste scores as compared to the control group. Before surgery, the obese and control groups completed a baseline validated taste test that quantified their ability to identify the primary taste. These tests were performed again at 3, 6 and 12 months after surgery.

The researchers found that 87% of the patients reported a change in taste post surgery with 42 percent reporting reduced food consumption because food didn't taste as good. The patients who reported lower taste sensitivity lost 20% more weight over three months in comparison to patients who reported increase in taste sensitivity.

"It appears it's not just the flavour that influences weight loss, it's the intensity of the flavour. Patients with diminished taste intensity lost the most weight. A potential application to these findings may include teaching taste appreciation in hopes of increasing weight loss," said the study researchers.

Numerous studies have found that individuals with a BMI of over 30 have 50-100% increased risk of premature death and predisposition to over 40 odd lifestyle conditions. To reduce the health risks associated with obesity, many resort to bariatric surgery. The current study provides excellent insight on how a change in taste perception post surgery can contribute to further weight loss, indicating the possibility that adjusting this factor may help achieve desired results.

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