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Using the Link Between Obesity and your Taste Buds to Maintain your Weight Loss Goals

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

A recent study funded by the AHA (American Heart Association) found that increased adipose tissue in mice made their taste buds less sensitive. Essentially, the fatter the mice, the less tasty food particles were for these mice. Though this isn't the first study to draw these conclusions, it adds to a pile of data that hosts interesting implications.

But what does this have to do with you, fearless MindBody enthusiast? You're no Ratatoullie.

Well, this is a potentially big deal, that tracks with a lot of known anecdotes - including my own experiences with weight loss/maintenance. The implications are, essentially, less calorically dense foods become more palatable/tasty the less overweight/fat you are. Your palate essentially becomes more diverse, allowing your body to accept a more varied constellation of nutrients.

The aforementioned study demonstrated that a significant increase in adipose tissue (fat) physiologically changed the taste buds of the sample population in a fashion that made the taste buds less sensitive to foods (even reducing the number of taste buds in some cases). This goes beyond mere perception (psychology).

Thus, it makes sense that the inverse would potentially be true - a decrease in adipose tissue would make taste buds MORE sensitive to foods.

This essentially means that healthier foods become more tasty the leaner a person is.

Think about a time where you were so famished/hungry that you felt like you could literally eat anything.

"I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!".

You felt so hungry at that point in time, that you were willing to eat whatever was put in front of you at that moment. You were not just saying this. You meant it. You would have gobbled some spinach and parsnips like a Hungry Hippo if you didn't have other options.

This is your body physiologically craving nutrients so doggedly it is willing to subvert the biases of your mind's preferences.

Now, imagine being able to stretch that potential inclination over a longer period of time. Imagine if you enjoyed the taste of healthier foods that you often found less palatable or even objectionable in some cases - but are more conducive to your dieting needs?

What if you could make that barebones Chicken Breast and Broccoli diet dinner more flavorful without adding additional salt and Velveeta (not that a real weight loss/maintenance diet need be bland at all in the first place, but that discussion is tabled for another time)? How much easier would dieting be for you?

And therein lies the potential to mine this evidence for potential weight loss strategies. Just starting an exercise routine and making incrementally small, sustainable changes to your diet can put you on track to making healthier foods - and, yes, less healthier foods - potentially much more palatable.

Try putting some vegetables on your plate after a really hard workout and telling me that broccoli don't hit different.

Weaponed with this information, you could see how this has the potential to create momentum during a weight loss journey. Eating with consideration of maintaining activity levels ensures that you're rarely eating without some appetite. The more weight you lose from your diet, the easier it becomes to continue to lose weight on your diet, since you will find less calorically dense foods more enjoyable (especially important since one needs to continue to restrict calories further if one wants to continue to lose weight. Having a more diverse palate helps immensely).

This lends one of many credible explanations as to why people generally fall off their diets when they stop exercising and vice versa. Without the increased appetite and palate sensitivity typically associated with the increase in physical activity; fatty tissue reaccumulates, affecting the taste buds, making diet foods less desirable overall. This becomes a 1-2 punch for diet/lifestyle relapse.

This also lends credible explanation as to why many find that certain health food staples such as Protein Powders and Protein Bars; lower calories alternatives such as Almond/Skim Milk; lower sugar alternatives, lower fat alternatives, etc. "Taste strange/funny". And this is just a focus on the taste buds. This is saying explicitly little about Leptin and Ghrelin ratios which also change in reference to one's weight (considered in tandem to be the "Hunger Hormones"). It also says little about behavioral/environmental triggers such as social pressures and stress eating. All of these elements work in concert when determining the success of healthy lifestyle changes/maintenance.

So what's the main takeaway from all this?

If you're in a place where less calorically dense foods generally aren't palatable to you at all - you need to increase your activity levels/lose some weight. Obviously, even with some weight loss - not everyone will enjoy eating broccoli. What matters is that you're able to find less calorically dense foods you personally enjoy and can stick with, as you incrementally diverge away from anything that resembles that Standard American Diet.


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