12 January - 20 June 2016

Stress hormones affect sweet taste perception

18 June 14

Stress may directly act on our perception of how food and drink tastes, according to a new study. The research, led by M. Rockwell Parker of the Monell Chemical Sciences Center in the US, identified receptor sites for stress-activated hormones on the oral taste cells that give us our ability to taste sweet, bitter and umami.

Glucocorticoid (GC) type stress hormones affect the body by activating specialized receptors known as GC receptors, which are usually located inside of cells. Knowing that stress can have major effects on metabolism and food choice, the Monell team took on the question of whether taste receptor cells also contained these GC receptors, using a mouse model. To determine whether there are GC receptors in taste tissue which are activated by stress, the researchers compared the proportion of taste cells with translocated receptors in stressed and non-stressed mice. Compared to controls, the stressed mice had a 77 percent increase of GC receptors in taste cell nuclei.

These results suggest that sweet taste perception and intake, which are known to be altered by stress, may be specifically affected via secretion of GCs and subsequent activation of GC receptors in taste cells. Noting that taste receptors are found throughout the body, the researchers suggest that taste receptors in the gut and pancreas may also be influenced by stress, potentially impacting the metabolism of sugars and other nutrients, and affecting appetite. Future studies will continue to explore how stress hormones act to affect the taste system. [FoodNavigator, Eurekalert]

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