Watching your weight? It might be a matter of taste

We all have cravings and tastes — foods which we prefer to others, and foods we like more than most people around us. But research suggests that might have something to do with your weight.

Lean Plate Club blogger Sally Squires told WTOP that the development of our tastes begins at birth and continues through life.

“We’re all born with an innate sense of loving things that are sweet,” in part because breast milk is slightly sweet, Squires said. As we grow up, we develop likings for the other main taste groups — salty, bitter, sour and umami, which Squires defined as “kind of a savory flavor that’s found in broths and cooked meats.”

Your preferences can be determined by such things as your exposure to certain foods at different ages, as well as your age, culture, ethnicity and more. Some people are even “supertasters” — they’re much more sensitive to how food tastes than most. And the development of those preferences — as well as sensitivity to various types of tastes — can have an effect on your weight.

One theory is that overweight and obese people may be less sensitive to things like texture and mouthfeel or flavors, so that they need more of these flavors to feel full and satisfied than most people.

“If you don’t taste fat as well as you might, that could mean that you would overeat it in order to feel satisfied,” Squires said, and that could lead to the kind of overeating that can cause weight gain.

A recent study in the journal Appetite tested the theory, using different wines. (They used wine because it has flavonols — “substances that are healthy and are found in things we all love to eat, like chocolate and fruits and vegetables.”)

They found that the subjects showed some important differences in how they perceived various tastes: Body fat percentage, body mass index and supertaster sensitivity and bitterness preference helped predict what wines were liked and not liked by various people.

“Lean people liked a bitter and more astringent flavor,” Squires said, “which is the kind of thing that you might find in vegetables and fruit and other healthier foods, while overweight and obese people were less likely to see those differences. And so it underscores this idea that how we taste food may impact how and what we eat.”

She cautions that some people may just be more mindful of how they eat, but the study still offers “new evidence for better understanding the connection between taste preferences and body weight.”

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