woman-tasting-cheeseWhile many changes occur as a result of bariatric surgery, one of the most unexpected may be a change in the way patients taste their food. Taste distortion (to varying degrees) is common feedback we hear directly from our patients here at WeightWise. Some of our patients tell us food tastes super sweet, or metallic, or just plain bland. And our patients are not alone! Studies reveal that bariatric patients do have changes in taste! According to John M. Morton, chief of bariatric and minimally-invasive surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine, patients note a variety of changes in the way they experience taste after surgery.

Do Taste Buds Really Change Post-Op?

We know that our patients really do have changes in their taste buds after surgery, and this studies’ numbers confirm that other patients experience this as well. Dr. Morton (Stanford University) created a study in which he observed 55 bariatric patients and 33 individuals with weights considered within the normal range. Each participant sampled the five tastes – sour, sweet, bitter, salty, and umami – both before and after surgery, to determine if there were any changes in their sense perception. After surgery, 87% of bariatric patients reported a change in taste. Of this group, nearly half stated that they experienced even less of a sense of taste than they had before surgery, and chose to eat less, causing them to lose 20% more weight than those who reported an increase in taste perception. Preference for salty foods dropped across the board for post-op patients.

Implications for Weight Loss

While this study, presented at Obesity Week last year, is one of the first to test for taste changes in bariatric patients, more research will follow. Researchers like Dr. Morton are interested in not only discovering how taste variance affects the way individuals eat, but how to increase a person’s ability to enjoy and savor food without over-indulging. “Perhaps people will gain satisfaction through appreciation rather than through volume,” noted Dr. Morton.

How to Handle Taste Distortion & Satisfaction

How do your foods taste after bariatric surgery? Are you satisfied with your meal even without the ability to over-indulge? Have you found non-food alternatives to fill the pleasure/gratification food used to provide after surgery? Including variety in your diet and examining your relationship with food can help to avoid diet pitfalls and assist you in making healthy food choices.

Whether you fall into the group that has taste distortion or not, eating flavorful foods that surprise your taste buds is one way to make the most of each bite. It’s a great time to play with spices/herbs/marinades, new vegetables, and combinations of foods that you have never tried before. Foods you did not like before surgery may taste great after surgery! And don’t be afraid to use spices. Our patients here at WeightWise love spicy foods – espcially if they experience a high degree of taste distortion. Don’t hesitate to ask one of our dietitians if you need ideas on how to make your foods taste right!

How do you truly enjoy your food? Leave a comment below!