Obesity May Dull the Sense of Taste

The study here found that obese mice had about 25 percent fewer taste buds than mice of a healthy weight. As some similar effect is likely found in humans, this research should provide an increased motivation (that is, enjoyment of food) for reducing the obesity epidemic, which I have written about at more length before.

Previous studies have indicated that weight gain can reduce one’s sensitivity to the taste of food, and that this effect can be reversed when the weight is lost again, but it’s been unclear as to how this phenomenon arises. Now a study publishing March 20 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Andrew Kaufman, Robin Dando, and colleagues at Cornell University shows that inflammation, driven by obesity, actually reduces the number of taste buds on the tongues of mice.

A taste bud comprises of approximately 50 to 100 cells of three major types, each with different roles in sensing the five primary tastes (salt, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami). Taste bud cells turn over quickly, with an average lifespan of just 10 days. To explore changes in taste buds in obesity, the authors fed mice either a normal diet made up of 14% fat, or an obesogenic diet containing 58% fat. Perhaps unsurprisingly, after 8 weeks, the mice fed the obesogenic diet weigh about one-third more than those receiving normal chow. But strikingly, the obese mice had about 25% fewer taste buds than the lean mice, with no change in the average size or the distribution of the three cell types within individual buds.

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Unfinished Coverage of the Obesity Epidemic

The statistics on the epidemic of too many people being obese and overweight are disturbing. There are reports finding that — within a decade — the number of people who will be overweight or obese will be about a third of Earth’s total human population. That makes it a significant issue of public health costs, but it’s unsurprising that the corporate mass media hasn’t given this (or a number of other problems) much coverage. The latest idiocy appearing out of today’s Oval Office is too often granted precedence instead.

As is the case frequently enough, the United States provides an extreme example of this world trend of rising obesity rates. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the American obesity epidemic is at a record high, with almost 40 percent of adults being considered obese. Over two thirds of Americans were also found to be overweight or obese, and of those, about a fifth of American adolescents fit in the obese range.

The costs associated with the American obesity problem have been estimated at $190 billion annually, or an amount that’s about 1 percent of GDP and nearly twice the annual budget of the Department of Education. This amount may of course rise even higher if obesity rates continue expanding.

While the costs are difficult to quantify, as it’s difficult to truly attach monetary costs to the overall well-being of livelihoods, there’s ample evidence to conclude that a lot of people being too overweight is a serious problem. It’s therefore time to more actively discuss solutions.

For starters, all products containing sugar could be required to have a daily recommended limit of 50 grams of sugar labeled on the package. That’s about the amount of sugar the World Health Organization recommends people limit themselves to daily. The sugar industry has of course tried to prevent these sorts of labels, as they represent a threat to their profits — even as the lack of them continues to take its toll on public health.

Beyond sugar being “empty calories,” there is bitter proof that an excess consumption of sugar has inherently negative effects. An overabundance of sugar consumption accelerates the decay of teeth, often causes undesirable weight gain, raises risks for a lot of diseases, and presents problems from potential cognitive damage to a higher chance of developing various consequential health conditions. A study recently released even discovered a correlation between sugar intake and worsened outcomes from cancer. The study’s lead researcher said that “Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth.”

The important point about sugar being raised, it’s also worth noting that the direct cause of weight gain is typically the continual intake of more calories than is burned off. A pound of fat is about 3500 calories, so the excess consumption of those is obviously contributing to more pounds. What a lot of people do not realize though is that a pound of muscle burns a higher amount of calories than a pound of fat does, even at rest. Aerobic exercise (such as running) is regularly seen as a way of losing weight, but anaerobic exercise (such as doing pushups) is primarily what will create the muscles that could prevent a lot of weight gain to begin with.

Obesity Can Cause Scarring of Fat Tissue That Makes Weight Loss More Difficult

This research is insight into the common adage that weight is easier to gain than it is to lose. Further examination into the Lysyl oxidase molecule that’s associated with the scarring is found at the link and in the actual study.

The fat of obese people becomes distressed, scarred and inflamed, which can make weight loss more difficult, research at the University of Exeter has found.

An analysis of the health of adipose (fat) tissue in overweight people found that their fat can cease to cope as it increases in size and becomes suffocated by its own expansion.

Dr Katarina Kos, Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter’s Medical School, examined samples of fat and tissue from patients, including those with weight problems who have undergone bariatric surgery.

Fat in obese people can suffocate and struggle for oxygen supply, due in part to the increase in the fat cells’ size. As cells get bigger they become distressed and struggle for oxygen which triggers inflammation in the fat tissue. The inflammation spills over from fat tissue into the blood stream and is eventually measurable in the circulation by a blood test.

Stressed and unhealthy fat tissue is also less able to accommodate more unused dietary energy. With fat tissue not being able to do its most vital job, which is storing excess calories, the excess energy can be increasingly diverted from fat tissue to vital organs, including the liver, muscle and heart. This can lead to obesity-related health complications such as fatty liver disease and cardiovascular disease.

Dr Kos found that fat tissue which is fibrous is also stiffer and more rigid. Previous studies of people who have had weight loss surgery showed that increased levels of scarring can make it harder to lose weight.

“Scarring of fat tissue may make weight loss more difficult,” Dr Kos said. “But this does not mean that scarring makes weight loss impossible. Adding some regular activity to a somewhat reduced energy intake for a longer period makes weight loss possible and helps the fat tissue not to become further overworked. We know that doing this improves our blood sugar and is key in the management of diabetes.”

Dr Kos, who leads the adipose tissue biology group at the University of Exeter, said where obese people carry their fat can have an impact on their health.

Scarring of fat tissue can change a person’s body shape. They can develop an ‘apple’ body shape with a large tummy and more fat within the deeper layers of the tummy and around the organs. However, they can retain thin arms and legs, as there is little fat just below the skin. Although such people can appear relatively slim, fat can be deposited in their abdomen and in their internal organs, including their liver, pancreas, muscle and the heart. Fat can also be stored around and in the arteries causing arteriosclerosis, a stiffening of arteries predisposing people to high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. Scarring of fat tissue has also been linked to diabetes.

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Dr Kos added: “Further research is needed to determine how to avoid our fat tissue becoming unhealthy and how protect it from inflammation and scarring. There is evidence that once fat tissue becomes scarred, despite weight loss, it may not recover fully. We need to look after our fat tissue which can cease to cope if it is overworked when being forced to absorb more and more calories. As a clinician, I would advise exercise or at least a ‘walk’ after a meal which can make a great difference to our metabolic health.”