One of the potential contributors to obesity is a difference amongst people in how we sense and enjoy food.  A recent study asked: Could the gene expression in our taste buds influence our weight?


Published in the International Journal of Obesity, the researchers biopsied the tongues (ouch!) of 13 people with obesity, and compared the gene expression in their taste buds to 23 people without obesity.


They found 62 genes that had significantly different gene expression in people with obesity. Amongst these differences was a reduction in expression of genes responsible for sensing sweet, umami, and bitter tastes.  There was also lower gene expression of a signalling hormone critical to the maintenance and renewal of taste cells on the tongue. They also found a difference in expression of genes associated with inflammation and immune response in people with obesity.


These findings suggest that obesity is indeed associated with altered gene expression in taste buds, which may be related to the low grade inflammatory state that is characteristic of obesity reducing the number of taste cells on the tongue.  How this could impact the enjoyment of food, the hormonal signals that influence satiety (thus influencing food intake), and whether weight loss can reverse this process are areas of much needed research in this area.


Dr Sue Pedersen © 2019 

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