Australian scientists have shown that humans can detect a sixth taste – fat. And it appears that those people who are highly sensitive to the taste of fat tend to eat less of it, and have significantly lower body mass indexes.
Using a series of taste-testing experiments, researchers from Deakin University have found that humans can identify the taste of fat by its chemical composition, rather than by its texture, Fairfax newspapers say.
The findings could lead to new ways of treating obesity.
The lead researcher, Russell Keast, said: “Fat has a very nice mouth feel to it [but it] appears that fat is activating something in the oral cavity independent of texture.”
Dr Keast and his team had a group of people sample various types of fatty acids found in common foods, mixed in with non-fat milk to disguise the texture.
Of the 33 people tested, all could detect the taste of fat to a varying degree, he said.
Fat flavour can now be added to the other known tastes: sweet, salt, sour, bitter, and umami – a taste for protein-rich foods.
Dr Keast says it appears that people who are hypersensitive to fat have a mechanism that is telling them to stop eating it, and the reverse is happening in people who are not sensitive to the taste.
“They are over-consuming and this is creating an energy imbalance, which is leading to higher BMI or development of overweight or obesity,” Dr Keast said.