Have you noticed that when you diet, candy seems sweeter and potato chips seem saltier? When we're hungry, food tastes stronger, Science Daily reports of new research from the University of Malawi in Zomba, Malawi in southern Africa.
Why? Hunger apparently increases our ability to taste by boosting the sensitivity of the taste receptors on the tongue. It also changes the way we perceive the same taste stimuli.
You don't even have to be on a diet to experience this phenomenon. Just skipping breakfast will make you more sensitive to sweet and salty tastes, according to the African researchers.
The study: Sixteen male undergraduate students from the University of Malawi participated in the study. None of them smoked or drank alcohol and all had good normal hygiene. All were of normal weight. The volunteers were given dinner at 6:30 p.m. and then skipped breakfast the next morning. Hungry after not eating for so long, they were then asked to taste without swallowing sugar, salt, and quinine solutions of different concentrations and report whether the liquids tasted sweet, salty, or bitter. One hour after lunch, the 16 men repeated this taste test.
The results: When the men were hungry, they were more sensitive to the presence of sugar and salt in the drinks. Interestingly, being hungry or full did not impact the volunteers' ability to recognize bitter tastes. Why? Lead study author Y.P. Zverev explained in the journal BMC Neuroscience that he suspects the difference is due to the different roles that the tastes play. "While sweet and salty tastes are indicators of edible substances and trigger consumption, a bitter taste indicates a substance which is not suitable for consumption and should be rejected." It's important that bitter--and potentially toxic--solutions be recognized at all times.