Taste assessment in normal weight and overweight individuals with co-occurring Binge Eating Disorder

Appetite. 2017 Jun 1;113:239-245. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.02.034. Epub 2017 Feb 24.


Background: Taste perception influences food choice, and may contribute to both weight status and disordered eating. Relatively little work has attempted to disentangle contributions of weight status and Binge Eating Disorder (BED) to human taste perception. We predicted weight status and BED would interact, showing difference in taste perception from non-eating disorder matched groups.

Methods: The four study groups included: normal weight BED (NW BED), normal weight healthy controls (NW HC), overweight BED (OW BED), and overweight healthy controls (OW HC) (N = 60). Groups were matched for age (±5 years), ethnicity, and weight status. Participants were assessed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders, the Eating Disorder Examination Version 16.0, and the NIH Toolbox Gustatory Assessment with additional taste solutions and taste stimulus delivered with edible taste strips.

Results: Interactions were found between weight status and diagnosis on measures of regional taste intensity for quinine hydrochloride (CI 95% [44.61, 56.31], p = 0.018), sucrose (CI 95% [46.79, 56.45], p = 0.003), and 6-n-propylthiouracil (CI 95% [25.557, 39.269], p = 0.015). OW BED participants perceived these taste stimuli significantly less intensely than OW HC and NW BED. Whole mouth taste intensity tests at suprathreshold amounts did not reveal group differences. All four groups reported similar hedonic response to taste stimuli. Edible taste strips had medium to large significant correlations with NIH Gustatory Assessment taste stimuli.

Conclusions: There were significant differences in the taste perception of OW BED relative to the other three groups. These findings may provide partial explanation as to why previous studies correlating taste and weight status have mixed results. Replication in larger samples assessed longitudinally is needed to extend this work.

Keywords: Binge Eating Disorder; NIH Gustatory Assessment; Obesity; Taste sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / psychology*
  • Body Weight
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Taste Perception*
  • Taste Threshold*
  • Young Adult