An Increase in Visceral Fat Is Associated With a Decrease in the Taste and Olfactory Capacity

PLoS One. 2017 Feb 3;12(2):e0171204. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171204. eCollection 2017.


Introduction: Sensory factors may play an important role in the determination of appetite and food choices. Also, some adipokines may alter or predict the perception and pleasantness of specific odors. We aimed to analyze differences in smell-taste capacity between females with different weights and relate them with fat and fat-free mass, visceral fat, and several adipokines.

Materials and methods: 179 females with different weights (from low weight to morbid obesity) were studied. We analyzed the relation between fat, fat-free mass, visceral fat (indirectly estimated by bioelectrical impedance analysis with visceral fat rating (VFR)), leptin, adiponectin and visfatin. The smell and taste assessments were performed through the "Sniffin' Sticks" and "Taste Strips" respectively.

Results: We found a lower score in the measurement of smell (TDI-score (Threshold, Discrimination and Identification)) in obese subjects. All the olfactory functions measured, such as threshold, discrimination, identification and the TDI-score, correlated negatively with age, body mass index (BMI), leptin, fat mass, fat-free mass and VFR. In a multiple linear regression model, VFR mainly predicted the TDI-score. With regard to the taste function measurements, the normal weight subjects showed a higher score of taste functions. However a tendency to decrease was observed in the groups with greater or lesser BMI. In a multiple linear regression model VFR and age mainly predicted the total taste scores.

Discussion: We show for the first time that a reverse relationship exists between visceral fat and sensory signals, such as smell and taste, across a population with different body weight conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Grant support

Instituto Salud Carlos III (FIS PI14/00290) CIBERObn and CIBERSAM are both initiatives of ISCIII, Spain. Fondos Europeos de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER) Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (PSI2015-68701-R) Jose C. Fernández-García is recipient of a research contract from Servicio Andaluz de Salud (SAS) (B-0033-2014). L. Garrido-Sánchez is supported by a fellowship from the Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria (FIS) “Miguel Servet I” MS13/00188-CP13/00188. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision topublish, or preparation of the manuscript.