Effectiveness of Taste Buds Hampered by Smoking

Bad news for coffee-drinking smokers: the toxic chemicals in tobacco make a person unable to fully taste the bitterness of coffee.

The information appeared in the journal Chemosensory Perception.

The researchers pinpointed the chemicals in tobacco, which are proven to make a smoker lose his or her sense of taste over time. The chemicals also create structural changes of the tongue.

The long-term effects of smoking on taste buds are still not fully known, however. It could be possible for someone to regain his or her sense of taste after giving up smoking for a long period of time.

The responsibilities of taste buds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include (1) starting digestive systems that change secretions of saliva and stomach acid; (2) making eating a pleasurable experience; and (3) differentiating good foods from bad ones.

To compile data for the study, 451 people were tested based on the way they tasted sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness. The people were broken into groups of smokers, nonsmokers and former smokers.

The research team concluded that smoking had no impact on the way a person tasted things that were salty, sour or sweet. But the same couldn’t be said for bitter things.

Low levels of bitter things aren’t difficult to taste. But one out of five smokers did not have the ability to pinpoint a bitter taste. The results also showed that 13.4 percent of nonsmokers didn’t identify bitterness and 26.5 percent of former smokers could not distinguish that taste. From that information, all the research team could deduce is that further studies into bitterness are necessary.

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers determined that tobacco thwarts the regeneration of taste buds, which is why a smoker may still detect some tastes but not all of them. This information regarding taste buds could be used in the future, specifically in aiding the sense of taste among cancer patients.