Smokers have fewer and flatter taste buds

August 20th, 2009 - 1:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) Smokers have fewer and flatter taste buds, says a study based on an analysis of tongues of 62 Greek soldiers.
Pavlidis Pavlos led a team of researchers from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki who used electrical stimulation to test the taste threshold of the soldiers and endoscopes to measure the number and shape of a kind of taste bud called fungiform papillae.

“Statistically important differences between the taste thresholds of smokers and non-smokers were detected. Differences concerning the shape and the vascularisation of fungiform papillae were also observed,” said Pavlos.

By applying electrical current to the tongue, a unique metallic taste can be generated.

Measuring how much current is required before a person perceives this sensation allows determination of their taste sensitivity.

The 28 smokers in the study group scored worse than the 34 non-smokers. Upon close examination with a contact endoscope, the smoker’s tongues had flatter fungiform papillae, with a reduced blood supply.

“Nicotine may cause functional and morphological alterations of papillae, at least in young adults,” Pavlos said.

These findings were published in the open access journal BMC Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders.

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