Smokers’ tongues less sensitive to taste

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© Michael Reynolds/epa/Corbis

© Michael Reynolds/epa/Corbis

Adding to research that shows smoking can dull your sense of taste, a group of Greek ear, nose and throat specialists and physiologists recently conducted a study of 62 male soldiers—34 of whom were non-smokers, and 28 smokers—measuring their sense of taste using a technique called electrogustometry. The method entails administering a mild electrical stimulation to the tongue to create a metallic taste. Researchers measure the participants “taste threshold” by how much current need be applied before they sense the metallic flavor. Their findings? Only 21% of the smokers had taste thresholds comparable to non-smokers, while the rest had much higher thresholds—or less sensitivity to taste.

The study, published this week in the journal BMC Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders not only tested subjects’ taste thresholds, but also examined parts of the tongue known as fungiform papillae, which are known to house high concentrations of taste buds. There too, there was a dramatic difference: 79% of the smokers had fewer of the structures, and those they did have tended to have decreased blood supply and be flatter compared with those of non-smokers.