Changes in pleasurable responses to the sweet taste of high-calorie foods contribute to obesity. For example, obese humans and rodents show decreased sensing of sweet taste and damage to the cranial nerves that transduce sweet taste is associated with overweight. However, whether reduced sweet taste perception is a consequence of obesity, or if instead, it plays a causal role by promoting over-eating of increasingly sweet foods, is not known. The long-term goal of this project is to determine if deficits in taste sensation drive overeating and whether these deficits are due the exposure to a sugar diet, rather than the obese state.
Outcome: Given that reduced ability to taste sweetness contributes to human obesity, determining if and how diet alters sweet taste perception directly will have a transformative impact on our understanding the role of sugar consumption in the obesity epidemic.