Taste test: Could sense of taste affect length of life?

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Perhaps one of the keys to good health isn't just what you eat but how you taste it. Taste buds — yes, the same ones you may blame for that sweet tooth or French fry craving — may in fact have a powerful role in a long and healthy life — at least for fruit flies. Bitter tastes could have negative effects on lifespan, sweet tastes had positive effects, and the ability to taste water had the most significant impact — flies that could not taste water lived up to 43% longer than other flies.

Perhaps one of the keys to good health isn't just what you eat but how you taste it.

Taste buds — yes, the same ones you may blame for that sweet tooth or French fry craving — may in fact have a powerful role in a long and healthy life — at least for fruit flies, say two new studies that appear in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Researchers from the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Switzerland found that suppressing the animal's ability to taste its food -regardless of how much it actually eats — can significantly increase or decrease its length of life and potentially promote healthy aging.

Bitter tastes could have negative effects on lifespan, sweet tastes had positive effects, and the ability to taste water had the most significant impact — flies that could not taste water lived up to 43% longer than other flies. The findings suggest that in fruit flies, the loss of taste may cause physiological changes to help the body adapt to the perception that it's not getting adequate nutrients.

In the case of flies whose loss of water taste led to a longer life, authors say the animals may attempt to compensate for a perceived water shortage by storing greater amounts of fat and subsequently using these fat stores to produce water internally. Further studies are planned to better explore how and why bitter and sweet tastes affect aging.

"This brings us further understanding about how sensory perception affects health. It turns out that taste buds are doing more than we think," says senior author of the University of Michigan-led study Scott Pletcher, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and research associate professor at the Institute of Gerontology.

Written By: Science Daily
continue to source article at sciencedaily.com

6 COMMENTS

  1. The researchers, or rather the science writers are making a real stretch here, though that is perhaps in the nature of popular science writing. I’ll wait until the study has gotten to mammals, before I decide to change my eating habits to flavorless things. (Apparently, they also make the flies put on more fat so they have a ripe old fly-age but can’t walk up the stairs.)

  2. One of the many practical advantages of having an understanding of our evolutionary origins, is knowing that we had – past tense – a fundamental reliance on fats and sugars in order to have the energy to hunt; which necessitated running, jumping, climbing, fighting and swimming for males, and for women, the sheer hard labour and stress of nurturing and protecting the young in an extremely hostile environment.

    Nowadays our circumstances have somewhat changed, from which it must follow that if we keep on stuffing ourselves in the same way as we did in the days of yore, without engaging in the concomitant physical activities associated with such an intake of grub, we’re going to end up a “mess”; a word, which like “nutty”, invariably reminds me of Richard Feynman.

    We will also have a distinct tendency to die young from embolization, or cancer – which needs no encouragement – or any number of other easily avoided maladies.

    All I have to do is think of what my mum went through to give birth to me, to be motivated into making the most of life, the first prerequisite of which is staying alive.

    I also find that waiting to become really hungry before eating, or “working up an appetite”, and not snacking between meals, enhances my enjoyment – that is, the natural taste, aroma and even colour – of the food, without the need for seasoning; even cottage cheese acquires a distinctly pleasant taste.

    It also means that my favourite pair of Italian linen strides still fit me after twenty five years.

  3. I can recall the loss of taste that having a heavy head cold can bring….when eating becomes a bland chore…especially when you can see the colourful and tasty food, your mouth naturally begins to salivate as you anticipate eating it but its quite weird not to taste what you expect to taste…
    I can definitely taste stream and spring water as Scotland has some lovely natural highland sources…which makes all other water pale into comparison….It always intrigued me how water could taste so different all over the world….Australia’s water is positively saline yeukk

  4. I am an absolute foodie. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to talk about cooking and eating. I research and read. i download the menu of a place a month before I am going to eat there.

    I derive much much pleasure from this. It is a passion. My wife is an excellent cook (I am a good “combiner of ingredients”). We have “meatless Tuesday”, “chicken Monday (in-laws over for dinner every Monday)”, We eat gravy and meatballs every Sunday. Our entertaining revolves around meals. And, the most important room in our house is the kitchen.

    My mother is a “calorie restrictor”. She is tiny. Barely 90 pounds and barely 5 foot tall. Her effort is towards longevity.
    I am a big fellah, but not obese (I wear a 52 jacket and 38 pants).

    We choose our death the same way we choose our life.

  5. I had always assumed that the sense of taste was favored by natural selection as an aid to avoid bad or poisonous plants or fruit. And also as a guide to help humans identify and seek foods that are good sources of nourishment.

  6. All I know is that it totally sucks not to be able to taste your food. When I have a bad cold and lose my sense of smell (which is a huge part of being able to taste), I lose weight because I don’t enjoy eating food I can’t taste. I can only conclude that I need to have more colds.

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