These hormones, known as glucocorticoids (GC), may act directly on taste receptor cells under conditions of stress to affect these cells response to sugars and certain other taste stimuli.

"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," said M. Rockwell Parker, a chemical ecologist at Philadelphia-based Monell Chemical Senses Center.

Knowing that stress can have major effects on metabolism and food choice, the researchers used a mouse model to ask whether taste receptor cells contain these GC receptors.

The findings revealed that GC receptors are present on the tongue where they are specifically localised to the cells that contain receptors for sweet, umami and bitter taste. The highest concentrations of GC receptors were found in 'Tas1r3' taste cells, which are sensitive to sweet and umami taste.

The results suggest that 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.

"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.

The new research is described in the cover article of the June issue of the journal Nanophotonics.


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