Hunger state affects both olfactory abilities and gustatory sensitivity

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2016 Jul;273(7):1637-41. doi: 10.1007/s00405-015-3589-6. Epub 2015 Mar 6.


Chemical senses such as odor, taste and appearance are directly related with appetite. Understanding the relation between appetite and flavor is getting more important due to increasing number of obese patients worldwide. The literature on the studies investigating the change in olfactory abilities and gustatory sensitivity mostly performed using food-related odors and tastes rather than standardized tests were developed to study olfaction and gustation. Therefore, results are inconsistent and the relationship between olfactory and gustatory sensitivity with respect to the actual state of human satiety is still not completely understood. Here, for the first time in literature, we investigated the change in both olfactory abilities and gustatory sensitivity in hunger and in satiety using 123 subjects (37 men, 86 women; mean age 31.4 years, age range 21-41 years). The standardized Sniffin' Sticks Extended Test and Taste Strips were used for olfactory testing and gustatory sensitivity, respectively. TDI score (range 1-48) was calculated as the collective scores of odor threshold (T), odor discrimination (D) and odor identification (I). The evaluation was performed in two successive days where the hunger state of test subjects was confirmed by blood glucose test strips (mean blood glucose level 90.0 ± 5.6 mg/dl in hunger and 131.4 ± 8.1 mg/dl in satiety). The results indicated statistically significant decrease in olfaction in satiety compared to hunger (mean TDI 39.3 ± 1.1 in hunger, 37.4 ± 1.1 in satiety, p < 0.001). The comparison of gustatory sensitivity indicated significantly higher sensitivity to sweet, sour and salty in hunger (p < 0.001), but significantly higher sensitivity to bitter tastant in satiety (p < 0.001). With this prospective study, we were able to show that both olfactory abilities and gustatory sensitivity were affected by hunger state.

Keywords: Extended Sniffin’ test; Gustation; Hunger; Satiety; Smell; Taste.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Hunger / physiology*
  • Male
  • Olfactometry / methods
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Satiety Response / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Perception / physiology