People with obesity may have an unexpected ally after weight-loss surgery: their tongues. New research from the Stanford University School of Medicine finds patients who reported a decrease in taste intensity after bariatric surgery had significantly higher excess weight loss after three months than those whose taste intensity became higher.
Findings from the new study, "Does Taste Perception Change After Bariatric Surgery?", were presented here at the 31st Annual Meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) during ObesityWeek 2014, the largest international event focused on the basic science, clinical application and prevention and treatment of obesity. ObesityWeek 2014 is hosted by the ASMBS and The Obesity Society (TOS).
In the study, the majority (87%) of patients reported a change in taste after bariatric surgery, with 42 percent reporting they ate less because food didn't taste as good. However, those who said their taste intensity decreased, lost 20 percent more weight over three months, than those whose taste intensified.
"In our clinical experience, many patients report alterations in their perception of taste after bariatric surgery. However, little evidence exists as to how and why these changes affect weight loss after surgery," said study author John M. Morton MD, Chief, Bariatric and Minimally Invasive Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine. "It appears it's not just the flavor that influences weight loss, it's the intensity of the flavor. Patients with diminished taste intensity lost the most weight. A potential application to these findings may include teaching taste appreciation in hopes of increasing weight loss."
Before surgery, patients with severe obesity had lower total taste scores than a control group of individuals with no obesity. The 88 patients in the study were on average, 49-years-old, had an average age of 49.2 years, more than half were female with an average preoperative body mass index (BMI) of 45.3. Prior to surgery, the patients and controls completed a baseline validated taste test that quantified their ability to identify the primary taste, using paper strips with varying concentrations of each taste solution, presented in random order. The tests were then performed again at 3-, 6- and 12-months after surgery.
"The study provides excellent new insight on taste change after bariatric surgery," said Jaime Ponce, MD, medical director for Hamilton Medical Center Bariatric Surgery program and ASMBS immediate past-president. "More research is needed to see how we can adjust for taste perception to increase weight loss."
About Obesity and Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 78 million adults were obese in 2011-2012. The ASMBS estimates about 24 million people have severe obesity. Individuals with a BMI greater than 30 have a 50 to 100 percent increased risk of premature death compared to healthy weight individuals as well as an increased risk of developing more than 40 obesity-related diseases and conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Metabolic/bariatric surgery has been shown to be the most effective and long lasting treatment for severe obesity and many related conditions and results in significant weight loss. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported significant improvements in the safety of metabolic/bariatric surgery due in large part to improved laparoscopic techniques. The risk of death is about 0.1 percent and the overall likelihood of major complications is about 4 percent.
Materials provided by American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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