How taste buds help promote long, healthy life

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Washington: Two new studies have revealed that taste buds may in fact have a powerful role in a long and healthy life.

Researchers from the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Switzerland found that suppressing the animal's ability to taste its food -regardless of how much it actually eats - can significantly increase or decrease its length of life and potentially promote healthy aging.

Bitter tastes could have negative effects on lifespan, sweet tastes had positive effects, and the ability to taste water had the most significant impact - fruit flies that could not taste water lived up to 43 percent longer than other flies.

The findings suggest that in fruit flies, the loss of taste may cause physiological changes to help the body adapt to the perception that it's not getting adequate nutrients.

In the case of flies whose loss of water taste led to a longer life, authors say the animals may attempt to compensate for a perceived water shortage by storing greater amounts of fat and subsequently using these fat stores to produce water internally. Further studies are planned to better explore how and why bitter and sweet tastes affect aging.

"This brings us further understanding about how sensory perception affects health. It turns out that taste buds are doing more than we think," senior author of the University of Michigan-led study Scott Pletcher, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and research associate professor at the Institute of Gerontology, said.

"We know they're able to help us avoid or be attracted to certain foods but in fruit flies , it appears that taste may also have a very profound effect on the physiological state and healthy aging," he added.

The studies are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 

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