Smokers have fewer and flatter taste buds. A study of the tongues of 62 Greek soldiers, published in the open access journal BMC Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders, has demonstrated how cigarettes deaden the ability to taste.
Pavlidis Pavlos led a team of researchers from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki who used electrical stimulation to test the taste threshold of the soldiers and endoscopes to measure the number and shape of a kind of taste bud called fungiform papillae. He said: "Statistically important differences between the taste thresholds of smokers and non-smokers were detected. Differences concerning the shape and the vascularisation of fungiform papillae were also observed."
By applying electrical current to the tongue, a unique metallic taste can be generated. Measuring how much current is required before a person perceives this sensation allows determination of their taste sensitivity. The 28 smokers in the study group scored worse than the 34 non-smokers. Upon close examination with a contact endoscope, the smoker's tongues had flatter fungiform papillae, with a reduced blood supply.
Pavlos concludes: "Nicotine may cause functional and morphological alterations of papillae, at least in young adults."
- Pavlos Pavlidis, Vasilios Nikolaidis, Antonia Anogeianaki, Dimitrios Koutsonikolas, Georgios Kekes and George Anogiannakis. Evaluation of young smokers and non-smokers with electrogustometry and contact endoscopy. BMC Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders, 2009; (in press) [link]
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