Detox Retreats: Fasting for the Senses

It has long been accepted that fasting is beneficial for our mind, body, and soul, with the practice having been used to great effect over many centuries. However, there is another little known benefit to fasting and that is the theory that fasting can actually enhance our taste buds, sharpening and sensitising them so we can derive greater pleasure from flavours.

A typical adult has at least 2,000 taste buds and the ability to taste five different flavours: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami, however it is believed that the constant stimulation of our taste buds lessens our ability to detect flavours as strongly. The consumption of fast food, alcohol, nicotine, and flavour enhancers in processed foods accelerates the desensitisation of our taste buds even further by overstimulating them. As a result we may need to consume excessive amounts of sugar, salt and other ingredients to be able to enjoy the same level of flavour that we used to. However, it is thought that fasting is able to reverse this process.

According to research, there is some scientific backing to the theory that fasting alters our sense of taste. Physiologist Yuriy Zverev conducted a study on two groups of people, one which continued to eat normally and the other which underwent a period of fasting. Prior to the experiment all the participants had been given the same dish to eat and agreed on its flavour intensity, however after the study this changed and there was a discrepancy between the two groups over the flavour rating of the meal. Zverev concluded from the study that following on from fasting our sense of taste reacts more sensitively to sweetness and saltiness than before. You can carry out a similar study yourself at home by adding 0.5g, 1g, 2g, 3g, and 4g of sugar to 5 different 1 litre bottles of water and trying each to discover when you begin to taste the sweetness – for most this will be around 2g. Then repeat this study after a period of fasting and see if there is a change in when you can detect the sweetness.

It is thought that the changes that occur to our taste buds following on from fasting can have health benefits. Following a period of fasting it is likely that the enjoyment you derive from different foods will change, indeed a meal you previously enjoyed may now seem too overpowering and unpleasant, whereas other foods you previously disliked could become palatable, oftentimes the healthier options. Fasting is also likely to make you more appreciative of your meals, meaning you’ll take the time to savour them and be more attentive to the different flavours, leading you to become satiated quicker and therefore not eat as much. Combining these new potential benefits with the ones we already know to exist makes it clear that there is much to be gained by fasting.

To find out more about the fasting programmes we offer, take a look at our detox retreats page or contact one of our experts on 020 7843 3597.

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