Obese children whose taste buds are less sensitive tend to overeat, as they lose their ability to distinguish the five tastes of bitter, sweet, salty, sour and savory.
They compensate for the lack of taste by gorging on more food to derive the same pleasure. Although obese and normal children had the same ability to taste sweetness, the ability of the former to taste the other four types were lower.
The study, from the Charite University Hospital in Berlin, Germany, looked at 94 normal weight and 99 obese children aged between six and 18 years who were in good health and not taking any medications known to affect taste and smell, the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood reports.
The taste sensitivity of every child was tested using 22 "taste strips" placed on the tongue, to include each of the five taste sensations, at four different levels of intensity, plus two blank strips, according to the Daily Mail.
They were then asked to sum up all five taste sensations at the four different intensities out of a score of 20. Girls and older children were better at picking out the right tastes.
Overall, the children were best able to differentiate between sweet and salty, but found it hardest to distinguish between salty and sour, and between salty and savory.
Obese children found it significantly more difficult to identify different taste sensations, scoring an average of 12.6 compared with an average of just over 14 clocked by children of normal weight.
While both obese and normal weight children correctly identified all the differing levels of sweetness, obese kids rated three out of the four intensity levels lower than kids of normal weight.