Cigarette smoking and obesity are associated with decreased fat perception in women


  • Funding agencies: This project was funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to the Monell Center. Dr. Pepino is currently a fellow from a KL2 TR000450 subaward, grant UL1 TR000448 (Clinical and Translational Sciences Award), from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.

  • Disclosure: The authors have no competing interest.



Smoking and obesity are independently associated with high consumption of high-fat foods in women. We tested whether the co-occurrence of smoking and obesity associates with reduced oral fat perception.


Four groups of women (14 obese smokers, 11 obese never-smokers, 10 normal-weight smokers, 12 normal-weight never-smokers) rated vanilla puddings that varied in fat content for perceived intensity of creaminess and sweetness, using the general Labeled Magnitude Scale (gLMS), and degree of pleasantness, using the hedonic gLMS. To determine the role of retronasal smell, subjects rated puddings with and without noseclips.


For all groups, perception of creaminess grew with increasing fat concentrations; puddings with any amount of fat were perceived as sweeter than fat-free pudding, and sweetness was enhanced when tasted without noseclips. Overall, obese smokers perceived less creaminess, sweetness, and pleasure while tasting the puddings than did the other three groups (all P values < 0.02).


The ability to perceive fat and sweetness in and derive pleasure from foods is particularly compromised in obese women who smoke, which could contribute to excess calorie intake in this population already at high risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. Retronasal olfaction appears not to contribute to blunted flavor perception observed in obese smokers.