Is our taste for fat genetic?

13 October 2011

Deakin University nutrition experts are calling on twins to help them identify if there is a genetic reason why some people eat more fatty foods than others.

The study builds on their recent discovery of a sixth taste that responds to the fat content in foods. They also found that people who have a low sensitivity to fat taste tend to eat more fatty foods and weigh more than people with a high sensitivity to fat.

“Last year we revealed that fat can be added to the tongue’s taste repertoire, joining the other known tastes of sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami (in protein rich foods),” said Deakin’s Associate Professor Russell Keast.

“We have also found that the taste buds of overweight and obese people are less likely to detect fat and that this could be a reason for their overconsumption of fatty foods.

“The next piece of the puzzle is to find out why some people are more sensitive to the taste of fat than others.”

The researchers believe that twins could help them determine if a person’s fat taste sensitivity is due to genetics or is it the environment in which they live.

“We do not know why one person might be more sensitive to fat than another,” Associate Professor Keast said.

“We are hoping to find this out by comparing fat taste sensitivity in identical and non-identical twins.

“If we can work out if people are genetically programmed to be less sensitive to fat or if it is because of their diet, we can better help people who are overweight or obese.”

The Deakin researchers have recruited identical twins Laura and Emily Sayers, who starred in Channel Nine’s The Block, to the study.

The sisters are the new ambassadors of the Australian Twin Registry—a not-for-profit service that brings twins and researchers together to undertaken medical research.

“Many twins are unaware of the unique part they can play in research,” Laura explained. “We are able to help researchers to better understand genetic and environmental causes in many diseases from epilepsy to cancer.

“We want to spread the word that twins have something special that could save lives and to encourage them to join us as members of the Australian Twin Registry and this study.”

Melbourne-based twins interested in taking part in the study can email, phone (03) 9251 7286 or contact the researchers via Twitter .

News facts
  • Twins could hold secret to why some people eat more fatty foods than others
  • Deakin researchers looking to identify if there is a genetic reason for people's taste for fat

Media contact

Mandi O'Garretty
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 2776; 0418 361 890

Russell Keast and twins Laura and Emily Sayers
Associate Professor Russell Keast with twins Laura and Emily Sayers in Deakin's sensory testing laboratory.

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14th October 2011