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The surprising way inflammation affects your sense of taste


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Photo: Pexels/Tarzine Jackson

The more scientists learn about inflammation, the more not-so-great info emerges. It’s already a smorgasbord of issues, including leaky gut, diabetes, acne, cancer, and depression. Now, according to a Cornell University study published in the journal PLOS Biology, new research shows it doesn’t do your taste buds any favors either.

In the study, researchers fed mice either a normal or high-fat obesogenic (meaning, designed to make them gain weight) diet. Unsurprisingly, after eight weeks, the over-fed mice weighed more than the others (that was the goal, after all). What was surprising? The obese mice, which had low-grade inflammation because of the weight gain, had 25 percent fewer taste buds than their normal-weight counterparts. Fewer taste buds means a suppressed sense of taste.

The obese mice, which had low-grade inflammation because of the weight gain, had 25 percent fewer taste buds than their normal-weight counterparts.

The researchers chock this deficiency up to the fact that the obese mice’s taste buds were dying more quickly than normal (the average lifespan of a taste bud is 10 days, FYI) but new taste buds were slower to grow. This wasn’t the case, however, in a few mice determined to be genetically resistant to obesity. Which means—drum roll please—that simply consuming more fat isn’t the issue, but rather, the accumulation of fatty tissue creates more inflammation-causing, taste-bud-killing proteins.

At fist blush, this connection might not seem especially useful. But according to Robin Dando, one of the study’s lead authors, “These results may point to novel therapeutic strategies for alleviating taste dysfunction in obese populations.” Like, maybe, more turmeric or moringa?

Speaking of inflammation, here’s how to limit it through diet as much as possible, including an anti-inflammatory food pyramid.

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