Researchers at Cornell University found that mice who were obese had 25% fewer taste buds than mice who were not obese. They fed one group of mice a high fat diet to achieve rapid weight gain while another group of mice were fed a healthy diet. Then the researchers counted the taste buds on a spot on the tongue that is known to have large clusters of taste buds for each group of mice. The lean mice were found to have more taste buds than their rotund counter parts. Taste buds are known to constantly regenerate by 50 to 100 cells. The average life span of a taste bud is 10 days and complete turn over of taste buds takes about 4 weeks. The researcher noticed in the obese mice that cell death sped up and regeneration of taste buds slowed down. The researchers turned to fatty foods to see if that was the culprit for the loss in taste buds. After controlling for mice who were genetically resistant to obesity the researchers came to the same conclusions.
chronic inflammation in the body so researchers turned to a common inflammatory molecule called TNF-alpha. Mice specifically bred to not have TNF-alpha were fed a high fat diet, became obese but did not loose taste buds. When TNF-alpha was injected into the tongues of lean mice, the mice lost taste buds. From their data the researchers concluded that inflammation caused by obesity increases the loss of taste buds. They theorize that people who become obese continue to do so because they have to keep eating higher fat foods to be satisfied. This study is interesting because it shows how important of a role inflammation plays in obesity. Hopefully this research can used to help others achieve and maintain a healthy weight.