It seems logical that children who experience chronic ear infections can suffer middle ear nerve damage. But new studies show those ear infections could alter children's sense of taste, making fatty and sweet foods more desirable and increasing the risk of obesity, according to the Washington Post.
But aren't doughnuts and candy always appealing to kids?
The lead researcher of one study, John Hayes of Brown University, noted in the article that while taste can vary genetically, it can also vary due to exposure to environmental changes: "Particularly with damage to the taste system and we think this happens from ear infections."
Howard Hoffman, who led the research in another study on tonsillectomies and taste preference, said in the article: "A tonsillectomy may damage one of the nerves that carry taste information. In addition, ear infections can also alter taste. Altering taste does have an effect on the preferences for food."
Four studies on the topic were presented at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting this week.
The researchers took different approaches that led to a similar conclusion: The first study followed children from birth to age 2 who had been treated with tubes for ear infections, and researchers found there was a trend for recurrent ear infection to lead to overweight.
The second study, led by Hayes, looked at 110 middle-aged women with a sense of taste consistent with nerve damage. Interestingly, the researchers found the best predictor of body weight was not how much fatty food the women ate, but how much they liked fatty and sweet foods.
A third study presented by the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders examined the effect of tonsillectomies on children's weight, and found that among children aged 6 to 11 who'd had a tonsillectomy, they were 40 percent more likely to be overweight, compared to children who did not have a tonsillectomy.
In the final study, researchers asked 6,584 men and women about their history of ear infections, and found those with a history of moderate to severe ear infections were 62 percent more likely to be obese.
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