Cigarette smoking among obese women appears to interfere with their ability to taste fats and sweets, a new study shows. Despite craving high-fat, sugary foods, these women were less likely than others to perceive these tastes, which may drive them to consume more calories.
M. Yanina Pepino, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Julie Mennella, PhD, a biopsychologist at the Monell Center in Philadelphia, where the research was conducted, studied four groups of women ages 21 to 41: obese smokers, obese nonsmokers, smokers of normal weight and nonsmokers of normal weight. The women tasted several vanilla puddings containing varying amounts of fat and were asked to rate them for sweetness and creaminess, a measure of fat content.
"Compared with the other three groups, smokers who were obese perceived less creaminess and sweetness," Pepino said. "They also derived less pleasure from tasting the puddings."
The findings are published in the April issue of the journal Obesity.
Pepino cautioned that the study only identified associations between smoking and taste rather than definitive reasons why obese smokers were less likely to detect fat and sweetness. But the findings imply that the ability to perceive fat and sweetness and to derive pleasure from food is compromised in female smokers who are obese, which could contribute to the consumption of more calories.
"Obese people often crave high-fat foods," she said. "Our findings suggest that having this intense craving but not perceiving fat and sweetness in food may lead these women to eat more. Since smoking and obesity are risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, the additional burden of craving more fats and sugars, while not fully tasting them, could be detrimental to health."
|Contact: Jim Dryden|
Washington University School of Medicine