One in five smokers cannot taste the bitterness in coffee
PARIS, France: A new study from France has suggested that smokers and former smokers may not be able to savour the full flavour of coffee. The researchers believe that toxic chemicals in tobacco products inhibit the regeneration of taste buds and thus impair a person’s ability to recognise bitter tastes.
In the study, researchers at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris assessed taste recognition and intensity among 94 healthy current smokers, 48 former smokers and 309 non-smokers all middle-aged and recruited on a voluntary basis among hospital staff.
They found that recognition of salty, sweet and sour tastes was not negatively affected by smoking status. However, smoking seemed to affect participants’ ability to taste the bitter taste of caffeine. According to the study, almost 20 per cent of current smokers and more than 26 per cent of former smokers did not recognise the bitter taste of caffeine correctly although the receptors in the tongue are generally able to detect this taste in very low concentrations. The effect was only observed in 13 per cent of non-smokers.
The researchers assume that this impaired bitter taste perception is likely to be caused by a toxic process. The bioaccumulation of some tobacco or combustion products might be responsible for the disequilibrium in taste bud regeneration, they concluded.
“We consider that the perception of bitter taste should be examined more closely, both as a tool for smoking cessation or for preventing smoking initiation. More generally, it should be worthwhile to consider the role of chemosensory perceptions in smoking behaviour,” lead researcher Nelly Jacob said.
The study, titled “Differential perception of caffeine bitter taste depending on smoking status”, was published online on 26 March in the Chemosensory Perception journal.