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"Strong emotions can confuse our fragile sense of taste perception," Elissa Epel, a health psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told The Salt by email. She was not involved in this study, but her research looks at how stress influences us.
"Stress signals danger and should make us detect [tastes like] bitter more strongly," Epel says. And this is exactly what happened in the study.
Participants in the study experienced a stronger sensitivity to bitter, sweet and sour tastes after watching emotional videos with storylines that were both happy and sad. In fact, their sensitivities to these tastes were heightened by about 15 percent.
But, at the same time, participants' ability to distinguish levels of fat "got much worse," according to researcher Paul Breslin of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University, who co-authored the study.
"It was a surprise," Breslin says, that perceptions of fat moved in the opposite direction.
It turns out, Breslin says, that his findings fit with a body of evidence that suggests that people who are mildly depressed and who have elevated body weight may have lower sensitivity to fat.
...studied taste thresholds in healthy subjects before and after administration of a single dose of a serotonin (5-HT-specific) reuptake inhibitor, a noradrenaline (NA) reuptake inhibitor, or a placebo...