Childhood obesity has become one of the top predicaments health experts deal with today. The growing number of overweight and obese children in the world may be due to their taste buds. A new study says that obese children are less able to detect fats in food than leaner kids.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that obesity rates in children has doubled in the past 30 years. In fact, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. Globally, 9% of all children will be overweight or obese by 2020.
"Some people may be more susceptible to dietary fat than others. The data indicates that there may be a genetic component to dietary fat that is highlighted in the obese," said Russell Keast, a nutrition researcher at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, who wasn't involved in the study told Reuters.
The study was authored by Naïm Khan at the Université de Bourgogne in France and colleagues. They examined fat taste perception of 116 school children in Algeria ages 7 or 8 years old. Around 57 of the kids are obese while 59 are overweight.
In order to reach their findings, the children were asked to come to the clinic without eating anything or with an empty stomach. They were asked to taste different drinks: three clear ones wherein one contained an odorless and colorless fatty acid called olenic acid.
After the taste test, they were asked to identify the drink with a different taste. Obese children had a harder time identifying which drink has fats in them than leaner or thinner kids. The researchers also found out that there was a relationship between waist size and increased threshold in the ability to taste fat in the drink.
After which, saliva swabs were used to test for the gene called CD36 which was responsible in making chemical receptors in the taste buds recognize fats. A few years ago, the said gene was discovered by scientists and it paved way for experts to link it with obesity.
CD36 has been discovered in 2012 as the gene responsible in the lack of taste of obese people for fats in food that makes them overeat. According to Washington University in Saint Louis researchers, they found that variations in a gene can make people more or less sensitive to the taste of fat.
Furthermore, A allele, one variant of the gene is associated with fewer fat receptors in the taste buds making it hard for obese children to detect fats in food. Hence, they need to eat more in order to detect it, thus leading to overeating.
Latisha Love-Gregory, a nutrition researcher at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, said in an email, "Regardless of genetic background, improving the diets of overweight or obese children is paramount in reducing the risk of obesity-associated complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension."