Some children aged between eight and 12 are losing their taste buds, which is contributing to childhood obesity.
Study author David Laing, professor of neuropsychology at the University of New South Wales, said taste disorders could be a contributing factor to the rising epidemic of childhood obesity.
The prevalence of taste disorders could be three times above the level defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a major public health crisis.
New South Wales researchers found 10 percent of children aged between eight and 12 years could not correctly identify a taste as sweet, salty, bitter or sour, the journal Acta Paediatrica reports.
“The World Health Organisation defines a taste disorder prevalence of greater than four percent in a population as a massive public health problem," said Laing, according to a New South Wales statement.
Laing added that impairment of taste can be caused by a variety of diseases and conditions including Bell’s palsy, renal failure and diabetes, and by disorders of the oral cavity, salivary glands and middle ear infections.
Researchers tested 432 children aged eight to 12 years from six public schools in New South Wales. It comprised 166 aboriginal children and 266 non-aboriginal children.
Taste disorders were found in 20 of the 166 aboriginal students (12.0 percent) and 21 of the 266 non-aboriginal children (7.9 percent).
Identifying ‘sweet’ was the most common problem, with almost two-thirds (65.9 percent) of the 41 children with disorders unable to identify a sweet taste. However, many of the children had more than one taste disorder.