Arch Dis Child doi:10.1136/archdischild-2011-301189
  • Original article

Differences in taste sensitivity between obese and non-obese children and adolescents

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  1. Susanna Wiegand1
  1. 1Department of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetology, Charité Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Germany
  2. 2Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Smell & Taste Clinic, University of Dresden Medical School, Dresden, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Susanna Wiegand, Department of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetology, Charité Children's Hospital, Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Augustenburger Platz 1, Berlin 13353, Germany; Susanna.wiegand{at}
  • Received 24 October 2011
  • Accepted 18 July 2012
  • Published Online First 20 September 2012


Background Taste sensitivity varies between individuals. Several studies describe differences between obese and non-obese subjects concerning their taste perception. However, data are partly contradictory and insufficient. Therefore, in this study taste sensitivity of obese and non-obese children/adolescents was analysed.

Methods In a cross-sectional study gustatory sensitivity of n=99 obese subjects (body mass index (BMI) >97th percentile) and n=94 normal weight subjects (BMI <90th percentile), 6–18 years of age, was compared. Sensitivity for the taste qualities sweet, sour, salty, umami and bitter was analysed by means of impregnated ‘taste strips’ in different concentrations. A total score was determined for all taste qualities combined as well as for each separately. Furthermore, the possible influence of sex, age and ethnicity on taste perception was analysed. An intensity rating for sweet was performed on a 5-point rating scale.

Results Obese subjects showed—compared to the control group—a significantly lower ability to identify the correct taste qualities regarding the total score (p<0.001). Regarding individual taste qualities there was a significantly lower detection rate for salty, umami and bitter by obese subjects. Furthermore, the determinants age and sex had a significant influence on taste perception: older age and female sex was associated with better ability to identify taste qualities. Concerning the sweet intensity rating obese children gave significantly lower intensity ratings to three of the four concentrations.

Conclusions Obese and non-obese children and adolescents differ in their taste perception. Obese subjects could identify taste qualities less precisely than children and adolescents of normal weight.

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