Most of us reach out for that tub of ice-cream or a bar of chocolate when feeling under the weather. But have you ever wondered why?This latest study shows how stressful situations can increase our sweet cravings. The research appeared in the cover article of the June issue of the journal Nanophotonics. According to it, stress hormones are hidden in the oral taste cells responsible for the detection of sweet foods. These hormones get activated when the mind is under stress and are known as glucocorticoids (GC). They act directly on the taste receptor cells affecting the response of the cells to sugar and certain other taste stimuli. (More: 5 stress busting foods)M. Rockwell Parker, a chemical ecologist at Philadelphia-based Monell Chemical Senses Center says, "Sweet taste may be particularly affected by stress. Our results may provide a molecular mechanism to help explain why some people eat more sugary foods under stress." (More: How to give up sugar in 11 easy steps)Having established the fact that stress can have major effects on our metabolism and the food choices we make, the researchers used a mouse model to find out whether the taste receptor cells contain these GC hormones that are released under stress and affect the sweet taste buds. The findings revealed that GC receptors are present on the tongue where they are specifically localized to the cells that contain receptors for sweet, umami and bitter taste. The highest concentration of GC receptors was found in "Tas1r3" taste cells, that are sensitive to sweet and umami taste.The results suggest that the sweet taste perception and intake, which are known to be altered by stress, may be specifically affected via secretion of GCs and subsequent activation of GC receptors in taste cells. (More: Just 5 percent of calories should be from sugar)"Taste provides one of our initial evaluations of potential foods. If this sense can be directly affected by stress-related hormonal changes, our food interaction will likewise be altered," Parker maintained.With inputs from IANS
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