New Delhi [India]: The levels of satisfaction derived from food differ among adults who are of normal weight, overweight, and obese, with people with obesity getting more satisfaction, suggests a study.

“Obesity is a major public-health problem. Causes of obesity are varied, but food consumption decisions play an important role. Taste perceptions may lead to overeating. If people with obesity have different taste perceptions than nonobese people, it could lead to better understanding of obesity and possibly designing new approaches to prevent obesity,” explained Linnea A. Polgreen, lead investigator of the study.

The study published in the ‘Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ found no significant difference in taste perceptions between participants of normal weight and those who were overweight.

However, participants with obesity had initial taste perceptions that were greater than participants who were not obese, which declined at a more gradual rate than participants who were not obese.

This quantification of satisfaction from food may help explain why some people eat more than others. As individuals consume more of a food item, they experience diminishing marginal taste perception, which means their level of perceived taste from additional consumption may tend to decline.

In order to determine if marginal taste perceptions differ among participants of normal-weight, overweight and obese, and whether knowledge of nutritional information affects marginal taste perception, researchers conducted a non-clinical, randomised controlled trial of 290 adults (161 with normal BMI, 78 considered overweight, and 51 considered obese) to measure instantaneous taste perceptions.

Eighty per cent of the participants were female, and ages ranged from 18 to 75 years. Participants were offered and rated one piece of chocolate at a time in a controlled environment and 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 chocolate tasting began.

The study identified a consistent association between taste from food, specifically chocolate, and BMI by directly observing instantaneous taste changes over a period of time, rather than just at the beginning and end of a period of consumption, as in prior studies.

As anticipated, researchers found that ratings generally went down after each piece of chocolate consumed with no significant difference in taste perceptions between normal and overweight participants reported.

However, participants with obesity had higher levels of initial taste perception, rated subsequent pieces higher than their counterparts without obesity, and their ratings declined at a more gradual rate compared to participants with normal weight and those with obesity.

People hungrier prior to the study had greater taste perception; women’s taste perceptions declined faster than men’s, and providing nutritional information prior to chocolate consumption did not affect taste perception.

“In our study population, 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,” noted co-investigator Aaron C. Miller.

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