A taste for fat



Our tongue is designed to perceive different types of taste in the food we eat. Now, how many tastes can your tongue detect? I would say most us would have the following response: four. And they are:

  • Sweet
  • Salty
  • Sour
  • Bitter

A less known taste but nevertheless quite important is the umami taste, e.g. a taste characteristic of protein-rich foods.

Now, researchers from down under (Deakin University and University of Adelaide and Massey University in New Zealand) have identified a 6th taste that our tongue is capable of detecting – the fat taste. The researchers found that the threshold for detecting the fat taste differs from person to person. Some are very sensitive to the fat taste and some are not. This sensitivity seems to have an impact on our eating preferences.

According to Deakin University researcher Dr Russell Keast:

“Interestingly, we also 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.”

However, our tongue can also get desensitized to the fat taste just like some people get desensitized to sweet or spicy food. According to the authors, fat is so ubiquitous in food nowadays that our tongue gets used to it, making us susceptible to eating too much fat. This discovery has a big significance in the management of the current problems of unhealthy diet and obesity epidemic.

Dr. Keast continues to explain:

“We are now interested in understanding why some people are sensitive and others are not, which we believe will lead to ways of helping people lower their fat intakes and aide development of new low fat foods and diets.”

Overconsumption of fats, especially the bad fats such as trans fats, are associated with a lot of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even dementia.

I believe about sensitivity to fat being an individual thing. My mom was very sensitive to the fat taste. She would cook but refuse to eat anything with oil in it. Her main source of proteins was vegetables and fish. Nine pregnancies never made her overweight. Despite being a lifelong smoker, she never had any heart or lung problems. She died of complications from Alzheimer’s.

I experienced the fat taste sensitivity during my pregnancy. Whether it was the hormones or the mother instinct to stick to a healthy diet, I wouldn’t know, but I loathed the oily taste then. The sensitivity disappeared after delivery.

Photo credit: stock xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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