It may seem weird, but ear infections don’t attack only your ears, but your weight too. If you get them during your childhood, there’s a big chance you will develop a taste for fat foods, and thus this affinity will probably lead to obesity. Scientists that made this study suggest that this appears because middle ear infections could affect the nerve that carries taste information to the brain.
Severe childhood ear infections (which require antibiotics) double the risk of obesity, according to psychologist Linda Bartoshuk of the University of Florida in Gainesville. This comes as a result of the predisposition to fat foods, researchers say. Three quarters of children develop at least an ear infection by the age of three and a third of all children have at least three infections by that age, with significant chances of a severe episode.
Bartoshuk says that frequent (despite not severe) ear infections can lead to a permanent damaging of the chorda tympani nerve, which is responsable for picking up sensations from the front of the tongue and goes to the brain, passing through the middle ear. This appears to make people want fat foods, but not by a direct mean, but by a more subtle link. This team showed that chorda tympani damage intensifies the sensation of the texture of fatty foods, which is naturally associated by the brain with energy density.
“Damage to taste makes oral touch feel more intense.” People who’ve had ear infections would then just receive more intense sensations from creamy, slippery foods.”
Basically speaking, this heightening of sensations could go both ways, meaning that it would be possible for fat foods to be less apealing too; however, this doesn’t seem to happen too often, scientists concluded. They wanted to be sure these findings were accurate, so they waited.
“We did not want to go public with this because it’s the sort of thing that frightens people.”
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!