Are dull taste buds to blame for childhood obesity?

I’ve written a lot about how important it is to expose your kids to a wide variety of flavors.  It’s why I recommend The Rotation Rule so strenuously. (Don’t serve the same food two days in a row.)

Now, researchers in Germany are making the same argument for a different reason: It might reduce your child’s chances of becoming obese.

A small German study recently discovered that obese children have a weaker sense of taste than normal-weight children.

When you can’t taste things well you eat more?  Makes sense since kids who have super, extraordinary, powerful tastebuds often eat less.

What’s the solution?  German researcher Dr. Overberg concludes:

“We think it’s important, especially for young children, to get different tastes so that they can improve their taste sensitivity.”

Continuing, Dr. Oberberg says:

“If you taste more and different things at younger ages, you can do this [improve taste sensitivity].”

More tastes.  And different tastes.

Most parents inadvertently teach their kids to enjoy the same flavors over and over.

It’s not your fault. If you follow the American eating “plan” for kids you’ll feed your kids a sweet and salty diet. Read Are “Child-Friendly” Foods Really Gateway Drugs?

It’s one of my main arguments against juice: Giving your kids on a regular basis trains (and trains again) your kids’ taste buds to enjoy the flavor they already love —sweet.  Read Training Tiny Taste Buds.

In this study children were asked to taste strips of paper inflused with sweet, sour, salty, savory and bitter flavors.

  • Obese kids scored an average of 12.6 out of a possible 20.
  • Normal-weight kids scored an average of 14.1.

Doesn’t sounds like a big difference in dull, but the results were statistically significantly different.

Then the children were asked to rate the taste’s intensity on a five-point scale.

The obese children rated all flavor concentrations lower than the normal-weight group.

Read The New York Times article.

Exposing children to different flavors isn’t as hard as it seems. 

Here are 4 things you can do today:

  • Jettison the idea that learning to appreciate different flavors is the same as eating foods with different flavors.  Let your kids taste; don’t expect them to eat. Read Why Some Kids Should Spit.
  • Always look at food from your children’s perspective: By looking at taste and texture.  Then vary what familiar foods you serve, so you vary taste and texture as much as possible. Read Pizza, Pizza, Pizza.
  • Instead of asking, “Do you like it?” ask your children something more provocative: “Is it as sweet as the chicken you ate yesterday?” Don’t be afraid to be silly: “Does it smell like your dad’s sweaty sneakers?” For a list of questions read Nix the Negativity.
  • Focus on sensory education. Read Teach Your Way Out of a Picky Eating Problem with Sensory Education.

There’s no guarantee that improving your children’s taste buds will solve an overeating problem.

But it can’t hurt!

Overeaters need to learn a host of skills for a lifetime of healthy eating. (Read Helping Kids Who Overeat.) Sensory education is a good place to start.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~