Taste Test

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April 2008 Volume 19, Number 2
©2008 Gürze Books

Taste affects dietary behavior, and taste and food preferences are often changed in persons with eating disorders. Dr. Lars Wckel and colleagues in Germany, recently literally counted the number of fungiform papillae on the tongues of 27 female adolescents with eating disorders and 16 age-matched healthy female control subjects

(J Neural Transmiss; first published online February 5, 2008). The fungiform (mushroom-shaped) papillae appear as large bumps on the top of the tongue and contain taste buds.

To make an accurate count, the researchers stained the subjects’ tongues with blue food coloring and counted the number of fungiform papillae using digital photography and image processing. Teens with restrictive type eating disorders had a more distinct reduction of papillae than did patients with vomiting and/or binge eating, compared with healthy controls. The authors speculate that the cause for this may either be an initially disturbed development of fungiform papillae or may occur after changes in eating behavior.

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