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From trainer’s bench to sickbed

Mr. Gohlisch, you recently completed your studies and are now beginning your residency at a children’s clinic. Why did you choose pediatrics?

I think that children are sometimes the most honest patients. They don’t exaggerate or hide anything. They also never had the opportunity of contributing to their own diseases due to a self-determined change in lifestyle and are therefore, if I can put it like that, never to blame for their illness. But that isn’t the only reason. I’m writing my doctoral thesis about obesity in children. In addition, I’ve always liked working with children and was also a young people’s trainer at a sport’s club for a long time. Plus, I like the working atmosphere at this clinic, where I already worked during my practical year.

To what extent is obesity genetically caused and to what extent is it caused by lifestyle?

There are genetic factors that have an influence. However, obesity largely depends on a person’s diet and how much exercise they do. The issue becomes particularly important in the case of children, ever since they began to watch more television and play more computer and to exercise less. The parents play a major role in this development. I myself have always done a lot of sports and, apart from my research interest, also have the desire to motivate children to do sport. 

How do you put it into practice?

I used to play basketball on a team. For many years, I’ve been actively involved in a club and also trained groups of children. Due to its location, the social component, i.e. integration through sport, is very much present at my club in the Berlin district of Wedding. This may sound a little cheesy, but I’ve been supporting some players for a long time and am absolutely delighted when, for example, they start studying. It didn’t necessarily have to work out like that, as some children start under very different conditions than those that, for instance, I enjoyed. They have to travel a longer way. It’s nice if the club and I can help them do that.

Has sport been important in shaping your character?

I think so. At all events, it taught me self-discipline, time management and teamwork. As a trainer, I’ve also learned to motivate others and to handle group dynamics – I think that also helps me in my current hospital work. I’ve also largely lost my fear of touching people I don’t know.

What is your doctoral thesis about?

The thesis focuses on the sense of taste of overweight children. Research has shown that, compared to children of normal weight, overweight children have more difficulty in recognizing different tastes.

Jacob Gohlisch

Funding program


Funding period

2015 – 2017

Project title

The sense of taste of adipose children before and after weight loss

Research area

Human medicine


Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin


Since 2017

Resident physician in pediatrics at Sana Klinikum Lichtenberg Berlin

2010 – 2017

Medical degree at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Since  2015

PhD at the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetology, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

So, I’ve been looking at whether the sense of taste of children who lose weight also improves over time. And that has in fact proved to be the case, with certain limited exceptions.

How did you find that out?

I conducted a study together with a rehab clinic where children go to lose weight, among other things. I tested the children’s sense of taste before and after they lost weight and then compared the results at the end.

How exactly does one test the sense of taste?

I use strips of paper that were impregnated with certain fluids. The children have to suck on the paper and tell me whether it tastes sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami.

Sorry, what was that last word?

“Umami” basically means delicious in Japanese and is triggered by glutamate. It was not discovered till quite late on but has its own receptor and is thus not just an enhancer, but also a separate flavor in its own right.

August 2017 / TO