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Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery May Change How You Taste Food: Study

Many people turn to bariatric surgery when they are unable to lose weight, reducing the size of their stomach with a gastric band. However, a new study suggests that a potential side effect of the weight loss surgery may an impact on their sense of taste as well. 

Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that some patients report a decrease in taste intensity after bariatric surgery, while some see their taste intensity increase.

Individuals whose ability to taste was reduced lost more excess weight after three months than patients whose sense of taste became more intense.

The findings were reported on November 4, during Obesity Week 2014, hosted by the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery and The Obesity Society.

Dr. John M. Morton, lead author, and the team of researchers found the change in taste buds may help patients hoping to shed pounds take off even more weight and keep it off.

The study focused on 55 obese patients who underwent bariatric surgery and 33 healthy non-obese people who did not have bariatric surgery.

Every participant took a taste test using flavor-saturated paper strips to gauge their ability to identify sweet, sour, bitter, salty and pleasant, or umami, tastes. Bariatric surgery participants were retested at three, six and 12 months after surgery.

Tests before surgery revealed obese patients were “uniformly less taste sensitive than normal weight patients.” This led researchers to conclude obese patients may try to find satisfaction through the volume of food they consume, instead of taste appreciation.

Most Weight Loss Patients Experience Taste Changes

Overall, 87% of patients reported a change in taste perception after undergoing bariatric surgery.

Of those participants, 42% ate less food, because the food did not taste as good. Participants also noted after surgery they had less preference for salty foods.

The participants who said their taste intensity decreased after surgery lost 20% more weight, over three months, than the participants whose taste intensified following surgery.

The researchers say more research is needed to determine how the medical community can adjust for taste perception to help increase weight loss, especially following bariatric surgery.

Last week, new research was published that concluded gastric bypass surgery was more effective at patient weight loss than lap band surgery. Despite the improved weight loss outcomes, gastric bypass patients also had higher rates of complications.

Patients who had gastric bypass surgery had higher rates of complications, death and many required another bariatric surgery later or needed to be re-hospitalized.

Other studies have found patients who have bariatric surgery will lose large amounts of weight, but will also have reduced survival rates, negative mental health outcomes and increased costs; raising the concern whether bariatric surgery is worth the risks.

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