Taste Test for Depression Drugs?
Way to Choose Right Antidepressant May Be on the Tip of Your Tongue, Study Suggests
WebMD News Archive
Dec. 5, 2006 -- It might be possible to create a taste test to help in
choosing a depression drug.
So say British researchers who studied taste and brain chemicals linked to
depression. They include the University of Bristol's Jan Melichar, MBBS,
MRCPsych, and Lucy Donaldson, PhD.
"This is very exciting," Melichar says in a university news
"Until now we have had no easy way of deciding which is the best
medication for depression," Melichar says.
"As a result, we get it right about 60% to 80% of the time," she
says. "It can take up to four weeks to see if the drug is working, or if we
need to change it.
"However, with a taste test, we may be able to get it right [the] first
time," Melichar says.
Melichar, Donaldson, and colleagues studied 20 healthy adults aged
First, participants were screened for depression. None were depressed.
Next, the researchers applied sweet, sour, salty, or bitter solutions to the
tip of the participants' tongues for about five seconds. The participants
correctly identified the taste of each solution.
The participants repeated the test after taking the antidepressants Paxil or
reboxetine, or a pill containing no medicine (placebo).
Paxil raises brain levels of a chemical called serotonin. Reboxetine, which
isn't available in the U.S., boosts another brain chemical, noradrenaline.
Each patient tried one drug a day over three days, switching between the
drugs. They had the taste tests two hours after taking their assigned pill.
After taking Paxil, patients had heightened sweet and bitter tastes. After
taking reboxetine, they had heightened sour and bitter tastes.
Neither drug affected salty tastes. The placebo pills had no effect on
The researchers concluded that serotonin and noradrenaline may affect
Donaldson explains that a taste test could show whether a patient's
depression is more affected by serotonin or noradrenaline. That information
could help in choosing an antidepressant.
The findings may also explain appetite changes in depressed people,
according to the researchers.
However, the study didn't include any depression patients, so more studies