Tue, Mar 09, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Recent Australian research identifies fat as ‘sixth taste’


It’s a theory set to confirm why humans are so fond of fatty foods such as chips and chocolate cake: In addition to the five tastes already identified lurks another detectable by the palate — fat.

“We know that the human tongue can detect five tastes — sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami [a savory, protein-rich taste contained in foods such as soy sauce and chicken stock],” Russell Keast of Deakin University said yesterday.

“Through our study we can conclude that humans have a sixth taste — fat,” he said.

Researchers tested 30 people’s ability to taste a range of fatty acids in otherwise plain solutions and found that all were able to determine the taste — though some required higher concentrations than others.

They then developed a screening test to see how sensitive people were to the taste and found that, of the 50 people tested, their ability to detect fat was linked to their weight.

“We found that the people who were sensitive to fat, who could taste very low concentrations, actually consumed less fat than the people who were insensitive,” Keast said. “We also found that they had lower BMIs [Body Mass Indexes].”

Keast said the research suggested that the taste of fat could trigger a mechanism in the body.

It was possible that people may become desensitized to the taste of fat, leaving some more prone to overindulging in calorie-rich foods, he said.

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