Two recent studies indicating that changes in one's tasting capacities could affect overall health and longevity have the potential to disprove the old cliché that what tastes good isn't necessarily good for you.
Tests conducted on fruit flies at the University of Michigan concluded that sweet tastes had positive effects on lifespan whereas the opposite was true for bitter tastes.
The most impacted test group lived nearly 50 per cent longer after being deprived of its ability to taste water, which is considered to have triggered more fat storage, thereby increasing internal hydration.
"This brings us further understanding about how sensory perception affects health," says senior author Scott Pletcher, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and research associate professor at the Institute of Gerontology.
"It appears taste may also have a very profound effect on the physiological state and healthy aging."
For a long time, scientists have known that taste buds help animals avoid eating foods that may be harmful to them.
"Our world is shaped by our sensory abilities that help us navigate our surroundings and by dissecting how this affects aging, we can lay the groundwork for new ideas to improve our health," says senior author of the other study, Joy Alcedo, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Wayne State University, formerly the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Switzerland.
Both studies are in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Planning is underway for further studies about how bitter and sweet tastes affect aging.
A study published in March in the journal PLOS ONE noted a link between children's taste preferences and their development in measures of height and weight, finding that children who were tall for their age favored sweeter solutions, while children with higher amounts of body fat went for saltier soups.
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