Arch Dis Child 97:1012-1013 doi:10.1136/archdischild-2012-302019
  • Editorials

New strategies needed for investigating taste–obesity relationships

  1. David G Laing
  1. Correspondence to Professor David G Laing, School of Women's and Children's Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of NSW, Level 3, Sydney Children's Hospital, High Street, Randwick, NSW 2031, Australia; d.laing{at}
  • Accepted 9 September 2012
  • Published Online First 11 October 2012

Overberg and colleagues report that obese children and adolescents exhibited a lower ability to identify bitter, salty and umami taste qualities and perceived several sweet taste solutions to be weaker than their normal weight counterparts.1 These results disagree with those found in a recent study of taste perception in massively obese and non-obese adolescents,2 where the obese children detected lower levels of sucrose and sodium chloride than the non-obese group and gave higher ratings of perceived intensity of sucrose and salt. Poorer than normal taste perception by obese individuals has been reported by others as has the opposite claim that they have better perception of tastes. Although the findings from obesity and taste studies favour a lowering of taste perception in obese individuals, the association between taste and obesity is at best weak. For example, in the Overberg et al 1 study only 12% of the variability in the data was accounted for by the four variables examined, namely, weight status, age, sex and ethnicity.

The inconsistent results obtained using measures of taste sensitivity, identification and perceived intensity in various studies are mirrored in measurements of liking of the high energy-related tastes of sweet and fat. Thus, studies of liking for sucrose by obese subjects have reported that liking (1) increases with a monotonic increase in concentration, (2) increases to a maximum then decreases as concentration increases and (3) decreases with increased sweet concentration. The inconsistency in the data suggests a …