Not Able To Lose Weight? Your Taste Buds Could Be To Blame, According to Recent Stanford Univ. Study

tastebuddsThe first week of November was 2014 Obesity Week in the U.S., and at a meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery in Boston on November 4, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine presented results from a surprising study.

According to the data, bariatric weight-loss surgery may have unintended consequences that help patients keep off excess weight once they have lost it. Bariatric surgery, sometimes referred to as “stomach-shrinking,” helps obese patients lose excess weight by surgically reducing the size of the stomach, causing the person to feel full after eating less.

The study, which followed 55 patients for a year after they underwent bariatric surgery, shows that patients’ taste preferences are highly likely to change post-operation. It’s possible that their preferences changed due to a mind-over-matter situation, but the study suggests that a person’s taste buds are actually capable of changing after bariatric surgery.

The 55 patients were tested for taste sensitivity at three months, six months, and 12 months after the surgery, and the results were compared with taste sensitivity test results from 33 normal-weight people who hadn’t undergone any weight loss surgeries.

Out of the 55 patients studied, 86% noted that their ability to taste food had changed, and 42% said that they found themselves eating less food after the surgery simply because it didn’t taste as good as before the surgery. The study also showed that the patients with post-op dulled tastebuds lost about 20% more weight over the first three months, compared to the remaining patients, who believed that their taste buds became sharper after the operation.

Dr. John M. Morton, one of the primary researchers involved in the study, noted that patients had a significantly decreased appetite for salty foods, in particular.

While this data is still fairly new, it offers a valuable insight to the various reasons why people overeat, and it provides a concrete foundation for alternative weight-loss methods that don’t necessarily involve surgery. Hormone treatments and diet supplements that claim to help patients lose weight by affecting other biological processes — tastebud sensitivity possibly being one of those processes — could certainly benefit from this recent study.

More data is certainly required before the surgery-tastebud correlation can be set in stone, but the findings are nevertheless valuable for an industry that doesn’t always provide overweight patients with healthy and long-term solutions. Ultimately, as Dr. Morton explains it, this study opens up the possibility that nutrition experts can teach people to “gain satisfaction through appreciation rather than through volume.”