Researchers from Deakin University in Australia studied 34 adults and discovered that the mouth could sense two common carbohydrates found in bread, pasta, and rice. They also examined the participants’ level of sensitivity to the taste, their carbohydrate intake, their overall calorie intake, and waist measurements. The findings suggest that those who were more sensitive to the taste of carbohydrates tend to eat more starchy foods, and so have larger waists.

“We specifically looked at waist measurements, as they are a good measure of the risk of dietary related diseases,” said researcher Julia Low.

A person is considered overweight if they have a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29, and obese with a BMI of 30 and above. More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese and one in four Britons.

“Increased energy intake, in particular greater intakes of energy-dense foods, is thought to be one of the major contributors to the global rise of overweight and obesity, and carbohydrates represent a major source of energy in our diet,” said the study’s lead researcher Professor Russell Keast.

However, they found that the people who were more sensitive to fat consumed less fatty foods – the complete opposite of their findings with the study on carbohydrates.

“What that could mean is that individuals who are more sensitive to the ‘taste’ of carbohydrate also have some form of subconscious accelerator that increases carbohydrate or starchy food consumption,” explained Professor Keast. The researchers said further studies need to be conducted to identify the reason behind this phenomenon.

In a related study, researchers have found that people with a reduced ability to taste sweet flavors have a significantly increased desire for such foods. The research suggests that for every 20 percent reduction in a person’s ability to taste sugar, they add an extra one teaspoon of the sweet stuff to their meals.

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