THURSDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Obese children have less sensitive taste buds than normal-weight children, according to a new study.

This diminished ability to distinguish all five types of taste -- bitter, sweet, salty, sour and savory -- may lead them to eat larger amounts of food in order to get the same taste sensation as normal-weight children, the German researchers suggested.

The study, published online Sept. 20 in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, included 99 obese and 94 normal-weight children, aged 6 to 18 years. All were in good health and not taking any medications that affect taste and smell. The children's taste sensitivity was tested by placing 22 taste strips on the tongue. The strips included each of the five types of taste at four levels of intensity, plus two blank strips.

Overall, children were best able to identify sweet and salty tastes. They found it hardest to distinguish between salty and sour, and between salty and savory. Girls and older children were better at identifying tastes.

Obese children had a significantly more difficult time identifying the different tastes and taste intensity than normal-weight children, Dr. Susanna Wiegand, of the department of pediatric endocrinology and diabetology at the Charite University of Medicine in Berlin, said in a journal news release.

Genes, hormones and exposure to different tastes early in life are believed to play a role in why people have different taste perceptions. Previous research suggests that people with heightened taste sensitivity may eat less food because they don't require as much to get the same taste sensation.

Although the study showed an association between obesity and diminished sensitivity in taste buds, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about taste and taste disorders.