Fat the New Sense of Taste, Say Researchers

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Fat is not BadAccording to new research published in the journal Chemical Senses, researchers have discovered a new sense of taste: oleogustus, otherwise known as the taste of fat.

Fat embodies numerous characteristics that distinguish it from the other five taste sensations consisting of salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. To further investigate, researchers evaluated various chain lengths of fatty acids to ensure that they, in fact, have different sensations distinct from other taste perceptions.

Their first experiment evaluated differences between short-chain, medium-chain and long-chain non-esterified fatty acids and how they differ from sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. The second experiment aimed to confirm the differences based on results from experiment one. All samples provided ensured that the texture and thickness of the liquid was similar so that experimenters could truly perceive and distinguish whether there is a “fatty” sense of taste.

Researchers discovered that while there was a clear distinction between taste perceptions of salty, sweet, sour, and bitter, that might not be true for all types of fats. Short and medium- chained fatty acids had an uncertainty to their “fat quality.”

Characteristics of short-chain fatty acids appeared to overlap with taste perceptions of sour, while there seemed to also be some overlap between medium-chained fatty acids with umami. Experimenters were able to identify a distinguishable quality that differentiated long-chain fatty acids to other senses of taste.

Further studies could investigate at what chain-length a fatty acid can elicit the “fatty” taste sensation.

Researchers have coined this new taste perception as “oleogustus.” “Oleo” refers to an oily or fatty characteristic, whereas, “gustus” means taste.

Source for Today’s Article:
Running, C.A., et al, “Oleogustus: The Unique Taste of Fat,” Chemical Senses 2015; doi:10.1093/chemse/bjv036


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Leah Shainhouse, R.D.

About the Author, Browse Leah's Articles

Leah Shainhouse is a Registered Dietitian with the College of Dietitians of Ontario and a member of the Dietitians of Canada. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science, Honors, in Nutritional Sciences from the University of British Columbia and went on to complete her dietetic training and Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition at McGill University. Leah has a strong desire to help shape the lives of individuals through a healthy lifestyle. She enjoys working with people to help... Read Full Bio »