Tobacco research reveals bitter truth

French researchers have uncovered more detail on how smoking affects people’s ability to taste.

A team from the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital AP-HP in Paris believe that tobacco specifically stops smokers being able to taste bitter flavours but leaves the ability to recognise sweet, salty or sour tastes unaffected.

In tests, nearly 20% of smokers were unable to correctly identify the bitter taste of caffeine. Just over a quarter of former smokers (26.5%) were unable to identify the taste, leading the researchers to believe an accumulation of tobacco products could also impede the regeneration of taste buds.

Although the chemicals in tobacco have long been known to cause a loss of taste in smokers, the extent of the effect was previously a mystery.

The research lead, Nelly Jacob, said: ‘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.’

The research was published in the journal Chemosensory Perception.

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