Healthy living * Weight loss

Fat - the new taste

fat - the new taste? Ability to sense the taste of fat linked to weight

It has long been claimed that the human tongue can sense 6 different types of taste (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and so-called umami). But a new study claims that some people are able to detect the presence of fat in food by taste alone - and that these people are less likely to be overweight.

We detect most of the flavours in our food by smell as our noses are able to detect many different aromas. But our tongues are restricted to a small number of basic tastes. Originally this was thought to be the five common tastes of salt, sweetness, bitterness and sourness. Research from Japan identified the ability of the tongue to detect a sixth taste linked to protein rich foods such as meet and cheese - umami.

The new research builds on previous work in animals which suggested that there was also a seventh taste - fat.

The scientists from Deakin University and the University of Adelaide in Australia and Massey University in New Zealand screened a group of people to see if they could detect foods containing a range of fatty acids - key components of high-fat foods. They discovered that there is a wide range of reactions to these fatty acids, with some people being unable to detect them and some being highly sensitive to them.

This sensitivity is linked to people's weight, as one of the researchers, Dr Russell Keast, explained: "we found that those with a high sensitivity to the taste of fat consumed less fatty foods and had lower BMIs than those with lower sensitivity."

He also suggested that our evolutionary history had a part to play in this : "With fats being easily accessible and commonly consumed in diets today, this suggests that our taste system may become desensitised to the taste of fat over time, leaving some people more susceptible to overeating fatty foods."

It may be the case that this research could be used to help develop new low fat diets and to help overweight people reduce their fat intake.

The research is published in the British Journal Of Nutrition.

This article was published on Thu 11 March 2010

Image © rb stevens -

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