Is there any scientific evidence behind the assertion I see on diet websites and in books that restricting a food for a set period of time will allow your tastebuds to be more sensitive to it.

For example, from ehow.com:

Taste buds acclimate to our diet. They respond to what they are used to. Known as neuron-adaptation, less sensitivity to flavor results. As our taste receptors become saturated with high doses of sugar, salt and fat they become less effective. Most people respond by revving up their fat, salt and sugar intake. However, resetting your taste buds is a better response. Resetting cuts down cravings and restores flavor's original impact.

The most common is sugar, with the idea that foods will taste more sweet with less sugar at the restriction period. But I've seen it for salt and fat as well.

  • Added a quote to be specific about what the "resetting" means. If that didn't quite capture what you're asking about, feel free to revert or edit.
    – user5582
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 23:35
  • 1
    Anecdotally, I have had a few friends mention experiencing this firsthand.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 23:38
  • 4
    Not scientific, so not an answer, but I used to have salt on everything and three spoons of sugar in my coffee. Any less of either tasted far too bland. I reduced this bit by bit over the course of a year and now have no sugar in my coffee and a pinch of salt in my food and both taste better than they ever did. I think we get used to overwhelming flavour with salt and sugar, blinding our taste buds to anything more subtle. It works well; now a single square of dark chocolate provides more satisfaction than a whole bar of high sugar milk chocolate!
    – CLockeWork
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 12:58
  • I can tell you first-hand, that after 6 weeks of rigorous low-carb diet, cola and most commercial sweets tasted so awfully sweet to me that I could not enjoy them.
    – Daniel
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 11:15

1 Answer 1


According to the 2013 book "Salt, Sugar, Fat" by Michael Moss, while humans are born with tastes for fat and sugar (they provoke pleasurable responses in newborns), the taste for salt is acquired (newborns do not enjoy it, but virtually all other humans in the First World do). If a person abstains from consuming salt for a time, they will regain their original sensitivity to it.

As a 2004 University of Washington Study shows, the relationship between humans and salt is much less similar to that with sugar, and much more like the relationship with addictive substances.

  • 1
    From the context I think you meant to write 'sugar' instead of 'salt' in the first sentence, so I edited that in.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 23:53
  • I find it difficult to read, but your 2004 Study only shows something about rats, not humans: that, if they have a history of being salt-deprived, then they eat more salt yet without seeming to enjoy it more. So it may be an exaggeration to say, "it's like the relationship that humans have with addictive substances".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 8:38
  • Would you quote where-ever in Moss' book he says that, "If a person abstains from consuming salt for a time, they will regain their original sensitivity to it"? And, what was his evidence or study for saying that?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 8:40
  • Apart from alleging that salt-deprived rats' reaction to salt is anhedonic, does the 2004 Study say anything about whether taste buds "reset"?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 9:14
  • The book Taste What You're Missing, a textbook on flavor by Barb Stuckey, says that a taste for salt can be developed while in the womb. But the given examples are a bit anecdotal and correlation != causation, so it could also be part of their upbringing.
    – Muz
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 11:18

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