New research suggests that overweight or obese kids have an impaired sense of taste, something that may explain the tendency of overeating seen in this group of children.
According to the researchers, these kids might want to eat more food just to register the same taste sensation. The study involved 94 normal weight kids and 99 obese children between the ages of 6 and 18.
Children's taste sensitivity was assessed using taste strips. The taste strips were placed on each child's tongue. All children were asked not to eat or drink anything for at least an hour before they took the test.
The test involved identifying various tastes and their intensities. It had scores for five different tastes and at four different intensities. Each child could score a maximum of 20 in this test.
Researchers found that girls and older children were better at identifying tastes than younger children. Also, children were able to differentiate between sweet and salty but not between salty and savory or between salty and sour. Obese and overweight children had lower scores on the taste tests and were less likely to identify between salty, bitter and sour tastes.
Kids who had normal weight had an average test score of 14 points while obese and overweight children had an average score of around 12 points.
These children identified all the taste intensities, but they scored lower on identifying taste intensities of sweet food meaning that their brain took longer to register sweet than the brain or children who had normal weight.
Researchers say that more studies are required to understand why children who are overweight have different taste perceptions than kids who have normal weight. According to the researchers, genes, hormones and environment may contribute to these sensory changes. However, there is still no conclusive proof.
They say that understanding these differences could help design better intervention methods for tackling obesity in young children.