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Under stress, people experience a change in their food preference and consumption (Oliver et al. 2000; Born et al. 2009). This study examined the effect of stress on taste perception. To determine how stress changes humans’ psychological and behavioral responses and whether these changes are evolutionary adapted, I conducted a taste perception test. Participants (N= 23; 12 females) completed two laboratory sessions: - one restful and one stressful session. The taste perception test was conducted at the end of each session. It included reporting taste threshold for sweet and salt taste samples at different concentrations and rating taste intensity for fat taste samples at different fat concentrations. I recorded the time required for participants to detect taste categories sweet and salt taste samples as well. Under stress, participants required less time to detect taste threshold for sweet taste category but more time for salt taste category. Fat intensity ratings perceived by participants for a sample of a fixed fat concentration decreased in response to stress. There was no evidence for sex-associated effect on the taste perception test for all taste categories. These results indicate that taste sensitivity is modulated under stress and varies depending on the taste consumed. This modulation is important in understanding how stress changes our food intake quantitatively and qualitatively by altering the way food is perceived. These results may help increase awareness of the consequences of this habitual shift in eating behavior toward comfort food (energy sense) under stress. This shift is evolutionary adapted for its association with survival and escaping predators as reviewed by Lebel et al. (2008). Thus, due to changes in life’s environmental, cultural, and biological settings it can be considered harmful for increasing energy intake more than needed which can lead to the development of eating disorders and obesity (Mendoza et al. 2007).
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Dandis, Haya Adel, "The Effect of Stress on Taste Perception and Sensitivity in Relation to the Evolutionary Background of Human Food Preference" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 406.