, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 24-28
Date: 01 Feb 1994

Taste Acuity of the Morbidly Obese before and after Gastric Bypass Surgery

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Obese individuals have an increased preference for high caloric foods, such as sweets and fats. However, following gastric bypass (GBP) surgery, morbidly obese patients tend to avoid these foods. We hypothesize that this aversion may occur, in part, from permutations in taste acuity. To test this hypothesis, taste detection and recognition thresholds for the four basic tastes (salt, sweet, sour, and bitter) were assessed using a modification of the Henkin forced choice three stimulus technique. Taste acuity measurements were obtained at baseline and at 30, 60, and 90 days post-operative for six morbidly obese GBP women and ten non-surgical, lean female controls. We found non-significant differences in taste detection and recognition thresholds between morbidly obese and lean control study subjects at baseline, and no significant correlation between taste acuity and body size. Furthermore, in our study population of lean and obese women, ages 26 to 52, there were no significant interrelationships between baseline taste thresholds and known effectors of taste acuity, i.e., zinc levels, glycemic status, liver and kidney function, or age. Following GBP surgery, a significant up-regulation in taste acuity for bitter and sour was observed along with a trend toward a reduction in salt and sweet detection and recognition thresholds. These findings would suggest the following: (1) taste acuity does not influence taste preferences of the obese individual who has not had bariatric surgery; (2) taste effectors such as zinc, when within the range of normal values, do not alter thresholds of the 4 basic tastes; and (3) weight loss following gastric bypass surgery is associated with an up-regulation in taste acuity in the morbidly obese. Studies are currently under investigation at our center to identify the specific etiology of taste acuity upregulation in the morbidly obese following GBP surgery.