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Cigarettes May Dull Taste Buds

Smokers' tongues have reduced blood supply, study finds

THURSDAY, Aug. 27 (HealthDay News) -- In addition to the many well-known ways that smoking cigarettes can damage a person's health, new research has found that smoking dampens the ability to taste.

In the study, researchers used electrical stimulation to test the taste threshold of 62 Greek participants. Applying an electrical current to the tongue generates a unique metallic taste. Measuring the amount of current required before a person perceives this taste enables researchers to determine taste sensitivity. The 28 smokers in the study scored worse on this test than the 34 nonsmokers.

The researchers then used endoscopy to measure the number and shape of a type of taste bud called fungiform papillae. They found that the smokers had flatter fungiform papillae, with a reduced blood supply.

The study was published online Aug. 20 in the journal BMC Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders.

"Statistically important differences between the taste thresholds of smokers and nonsmokers were detected. Differences concerning the shape and the vascularization of fungiform papillae were also observed," study leader Pavlidis Pavlos, of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and colleagues said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

"Nicotine may cause functional and morphological alterations of papillae, at least in young adults," they concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about taste disorders.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BioMed Central, news release, August 2009

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