Fatty results for insensitive buds

27 May 2014

New study adds weight to the connection between the taste of fat and obesity.

Deakin health researchers have found that people who do not taste fat in food are more likely to overeat, adding weight to the growing body of research that points to a connection between fat taste and obesity.

The researchers, who work within the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, have found that people who can’t taste the fat in foods eat significantly more at lunch, after having a high fat breakfast, than those who can taste fat.

“These results suggest that the ability to taste fat is linked with the fullness experienced from fat,” explained Deakin’s Professor Russell Keast.

He estimates that around 40 per cent of the population could be deemed insensitive to fat.

“Tasting fat is unconscious,” he said. “For our experiments, we used oleic acid, a common fatty acid component of fat, and discovered that obese people were much less likely to taste it.”

He added that researchers have not yet determined whether the reduced sensitivity comes from eating high proportions of fatty food, or because obese people are genetically less sensitive.

“If you do not taste fat or experience the fullness associated with eating fatty food, you are likely to be more hungry and consume more energy after an earlier fatty meal. And, as we know, over-consumption of foods, particularly fatty foods, is associated with people being overweight or obese.”

For the study, over four separate days, participants ate a high fat, high carbohydrate, high protein breakfast and were then provided with a buffet style lunch where they ate a variety of foods until comfortably full. Measurements of energy consumed at lunch were recorded, as was the participants’ perceived hunger and fullness.

This latest research builds on Professor Keast’s previous work that found fat is part of the tongue’s taste range (along with sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami).

“Through this latest study we now see that low sensitivity to fat taste impairs the body’s ability to register the fullness signals that would normally come from eating fatty foods,” he said.

“The evidence is building that increasing fat taste sensitivity in those who are insensitive could be one way to address the obesity problem. We hope that over the next decade we can discover ways to use this knowledge to help obese people manage their weight.”

Professor Russell Keast Professor Russell Keast

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