HEALTHY LIVING
03/28/2014 08:21 am ET | Updated Mar 28, 2014

Smoking Messes With Your Taste Buds

Frank Rothe via Getty Images

Here's another reason to quit smoking: The habit could throw your taste buds out of whack.

A new study in the journal Chemosensory Perception shows that current and former smokers have more problems identifying bitter taste from caffeine, compared with non-smokers.

For the study, French researchers tested the tasting abilities of 451 Parisian hospital staff members. The participants were given sweet, sour, bitter and salty tastes, and were asked to report the intensity of each.

Researchers examined the ability to identify the tastes and how that was associated with whether each participant was a former, current or never-smoker. They found no association between ability to identify sweet, sour and salty tastes and smoking status, but they did find an association between ability to identify bitter taste from caffeine and smoking status.

Specifically, 26.5 percent of former smokers and 19.8 percent of current smokers couldn't correctly identify the bitter taste of caffeine. Meanwhile, a smaller percentage of non-smokers -- 13.4 percent -- couldn't correctly identify bitter taste of caffeine.

"The differential perception of caffeine’s bitter taste by current and former smokers is likely to be caused by a toxic process," the researchers wrote in the study. "As taste impairment persists in former smokers, the bioaccumulation of some tobacco/combustion products might be responsible for the disequilibrium in taste buds regeneration."

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