Is Fat Our New Sixth Taste?
Our taste buds identify five primary tastes – bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami (or savory).
But recent news may have us identifying a sixth, new taste…oleogustas.
In Latin, “oleogustus” translates to “a taste for fat.”
And according to this post from Purdue University, there is new evidence of a sixth, disgusting taste – FAT.
Taste Buds & Fat
“It is a sensation one would get from eating oxidized oil,”
lead study author Rick Mattes, PhD, RD, a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University, told NPR.
“When people think of fat, they usually think of ‘mouth feel’ — which is the result of triglycerides.”
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
“That gives the richness, the creaminess, viscosity and so on,”but that is not the taste part. The taste part is when we cleave off part of that triglyceride, the fatty acid part.”
“Non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), or fat without triglycerides, are what these researches believe hold the key to this new taste for fat.”
Why Do Humans Have a Taste for Fat?
According to the enduring Sunday morning newspaper insert publication, Parade Magazine, the origins of our sense of taste stretches back 500 million years, when creatures first developed the ability to sense prey in the ocean around them, then devour and appreciate it.
We could then make the connection that since we (generally) are more obese than our ancestors, we’ve just naturally developed a taste for fat.
But that’s up for debate, according to Dr. Gary L. Wenk, Ph. D., the amount of this fat-tasting protein on the tongue varies.
“If you’ve inherited a tendency to have fewer of these receptors, then your response to fat is muted and you are more likely to be obese.”
“Obese people do prefer food with higher fat content and consume fat as a larger percentage of their overall calorie intake. Even if you have not inherited this tendency, if you consume lots of fatty foods you will modify the activity of this gene and subsequently make less of the fat-tasting protein.”
“Unfortunately, as a consequence you become less sensitive to the taste of fat and begin to prefer foods that contain higher levels of fat in order to obtain the same pleasurable sensation when eating.”
“Essentially, you start eating more fatty foods but enjoy them much less.”
Well that’s no good…who wants the fat without the fun?
Dr. Wenk goes on to mention how consuming fat appears to be linked with our ability to metabolize it.
Rats that have been genetically altered to lack this fat-tasting protein do not enjoy the taste of fatty foods and have a problem digesting it.
So Have You Developed a Taste for Fat?
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Dental Patient News and has been republished here with permission. It has since been updated for accuracy & comprehensiveness.