Taste buds are really important as a study has revealed that people with a diminished ability to taste, prefer more sugar than they wanted in their food, which may put them at risk to gain weight.
The results suggested that for a regular sugary 16-ounce soft drink, a person with a 20 percent reduction in the ability to taste sweet, crave an extra teaspoon of sugar to reach an optimal level of sweetness as compared to someone with unaltered taste response.
Lead study author Robin Dando from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York said they found that the more people lost sensitivity to sweetness, the more sugar they wanted in their foods.
"If an overweight or obese person has a diminished sense of taste, our research shows that they may begin to seek out more intense stimuli to attain a satisfactory level of reward," Dando explained.
Nutritionists, researchers and doctors have long suspected a connection between diminished taste sensitivity and obesity, but no one had tested if losing taste altered intake.
The researchers temporarily dulled the taste buds of study participants and had them sample foods of varying sugar concentrations.
For the blind tests, the team provided participants with an herbal tea with low, medium or high concentrations of a naturally occurring herb, Gymnema Sylvestre, which is known to temporarily block sweet receptors.
During the testing, the participants added their favoured levels of sweetness to bland concoctions.
Without realising it, they gravitated to eight to 12 percent sucrose.
Soft drinks are generally around 10 percent sugar. "That's not a coincidence," said Dando.
The findings indicated that those participants with their taste receptors blocked began to prefer higher concentrations of sugar.
This can influence their eating habits to compensate for a lower taste response, he said.
"The gustatory system - that is, the taste system we have - may serve as an important nexus in understanding the development of obesity. With this in mind, taste dysfunction should be considered as a factor," Dando concluded.
The results have been published online by the journal Appetite.