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Coffee and cigarettes actually a terrible, not very tasty, combination, say scientists

Smoking impairs the ability to taste bitter flavours more than any others
  • @jjvincent

In news that will have tortured artists tearing out their hair and archaic French stereotypes weeping in the streets crying “it’s le not fair” (thanks Google Translate), scientists have announced that coffee and cigarettes actually go terribly together.

In a new study published in the journal Chemosensory Perception, researchers found that smoking causes permanent structural changes to the tongue, degrading the taste buds’ capacity to detect signature bitter flavours of our favourite caffeinated beverage.

While it’s been known for a long time that the toxic chemicals in tobacco dulls smokers’ sense of taste (as well as, you know, killing five times more people in the UK than road accidents, overdoses, murders, suicide and HIV combined) this new study not only found that smoking had a long-term impact on taste, but that bitter flavours were most "significantly" affected.

Researchers from the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in France tested the ability of 451 staff from Parisian hospitals for the ability to recognize the four basic flavours (sweet, sour, salty and bitter) with participants divided into three groups: smokers, non-smokers and those who had quit.

When assessed for their ability to taste bitter flavours, one in five of the smokers (19.8 per cent) could not recognize the samples, with former smokers coming off even worse: one in four (26.5 per cent) failed to spot that they were tasting something that was bitter.

These results compared poorly with the roughly one in ten (13.4 per cent) of non-smokers who couldn’t identify the bitter samples, and seems especially bad news considering that the research highlights that bitterness can generally be identified at very low concentrations.

"The recognition of salty, sweet and sour tastes was not influenced by smoking status," reads the paper. "Bitter taste recognition was wrong among 13.4, 19.8 and 26.5 % of non-smokers, current smokers and former smokers, respectively."

The paper pointed out that these results emerged despite the "well-known relationship between smoking and coffee drinking" and also notes that "coffee consumption goes down when stop smoking".

Could it be that those who profess to love cigarettes and coffee simply don't like coffee when they can properly taste it? If you're a smoker there's only one way to find out: kick the habit and enjoy the caffeine.