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Route to obesity passes through tongue
Date:11/26/2008

Obesity gradually numbs the taste sensation of rats to sweet foods and drives them to consume larger and ever-sweeter meals, according to neuroscientists. Findings from the Penn State study could uncover a critical link between taste and body weight, and reveal how flab hooks the brain on sugary food.

"When you have a reduced sensitivity to palatable foods, you tend to consume it in higher amounts," said Andras Hajnal, associate professor of neural and behavioral sciences at Penn State College of Medicine. "It is a vicious circle."

Previous studies have suggested that obese persons are less sensitive to sweet taste and crave sweet foods more than lean people. However, little is known about the specific differences between obese and lean individuals in their sense of taste and the pleasure they derive from sweet foods.

Hajnal and his Penn State colleague Peter Kovacs, a post-doctoral fellow, investigated these differences by studying the taste responses of two strains -- OLETF and LETO rats.

Compared to the lean and healthy LETO rats, the taste responses in OLETF rats mirror those in obese humans. These rats have normal body weight at first, but they tend to chronically overeat due to a missing satiety signal, become obese and develop diabetes. The obese rats also show an increased preference for sweet foods and also are willing to work harder to obtain sweet solutions as a reward for their learning.

"When you have excess body weight, the brain is supposed to tell you not to eat more, or not choose high caloric meals" said Hajnal. "But this control apparently fails and thus the obesity epidemic is rising, and we want to find out how the sense of taste drives up food intake."

The researchers implanted electrodes in the rodents' brains to record the firing of nerve cells when the rats' tongues were exposed to various tastes -- salt, citric acid, plain water and six different concentrations of sucrose.

Hajnal and Kovacs specifically lo
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Contact: Amitabh Avasthi
axa47@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert

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