Do Eating Disorders Change Your Taste Buds?

Eating disorders are in the middle of their largest expose in cultural, scientific, and medical history. For years, eating disorders have hid in the dark. The criterium for eating disorder treatment has been extreme, requiring life threatening weights for anorexia and bulimia. Today, there is more grey area on the scales between eating disorder and disordered eating. Other disorders have come to light, such as: body dysmorphic disorder, binge eating disorder, bigorexia and orthorexia. Increasingly, understanding is being paid to how and why these disorders develop. Further understanding comes from looking at just what these disorders do to the body and what can be done to treat the effects.

Do Eating Disorders Change Your Taste Buds?

Do Eating Disorders Change Your Taste Buds?

The mouth is an area commonly examined in eating disorders for orthodontic purposes. Acid from bulimic practices like vomiting eats away at tooth enamel, and can burn through layers of the gums. Binge episodes which involve a high amount of sugar-loaded foods also contribute to tooth decay. One part of the mouth not commonly considered is the tongue.

University of Colorado medical students discovered disordered eating changes the way food is tasted. How food is tasted, conversely, also influences how food is eaten. Taste buds acting normally help differentiate what foods are. Then, in the brain, the food type is discerned- eat more of this, stop eating that. Binge eating disorder looks similar to addiction in the brain. There is no ‘stop’ button. In fact, the harmful substances, like sugar, trigger a ‘don’t stop’ reaction. In contrast, anorexia receives a ‘do not start’ response for food, without a ‘start eating’.

Researchers examined over a hundred women with varying eating disorders, offering them sugar water and regular water. Looking at brain scans, researchers found that especially participants suffering from either anorexia or obesity had difficulty identifying the two waters. The insular cortex is the part of the brain primarily responsible for taste, as well as emotion, motor control, self-awareness and perception. Brain scans revealed impaired activity in the insula.

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