Study Finds Some People are Better at “Tasting” Fat than Others

taste of fatAccording to a study presented at the Institute of Food Technologists 2011 meeting, fat and fatty acids can be tasted, although they are mainly distinguished through smell and texture. Researchers at the New York Obesity Research Center found that people who are not able to “taste” the fat in foods are likely to over-eat these foods, and are more likely to be overweight or obese.

HealthDay News reported that the study consisted of 317 healthy black adults. The researchers examined the diets of the participants and asked them how oily or creamy they found various salad dressings. The dressings ranged from 5 to 55 percent fat content. The researchers identified a common variant in the CD36 gene that was tied with the self-reported inclination toward added fats including butters, oils and spreads. It was also associated with a penchant for fat in dairy samples in a smaller study of children.

The study found that people who are more sensitive to fat are better able to detect even small changes in fat content and are less likely to struggle with weight gain. On the other hand, those who are not able to detect the fat content have a genetic variant in the way that their food is processed, possibly leading to fat cravings on a subconscious level.

Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, who is a nutrition instructor at California State University in Sacramento as well as a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, points out that it may be too soon to link weight gain with these newly pinpointed fat-tasting genes. She explained that the findings don’t show a cause and effect relationship yet.  She concluded that “If we do discover that people are fat-tasters, some more than others, this could clarify why fat-free foods are not as popular as full-fat foods. It would definitely assist in placing a piece of the puzzle. That is, why current fat replacers are not as performance-perfect as we had thought they would be.”

Dr. Emma Patterson commented, “This work is adding to our understanding of human variation in fat tasting, and proposes an intriguing hypothesis that insensitivity to the taste of fat is another possible risk factor for obesity. People who can’t taste the fat in foods very well may be more likely to eat such foods and thereby consume more calories and gain weight compared with people who are better fat tasters. And with the over-abundance of high fat, high calorie, low cost, fast foods in our society, this could be a recipe for disaster.”

Dr. Terry Simpson of Southwest Weight Loss is an expert bariatric surgeon who speaks and writes often about food and cooking. He had this to say about the article: “If you’ve evern known someone who put so much salt on food that you would find it unpleasant, this may be similar. Some people may lose the ability to find too much fat unpalatable. It takes more and more fat to satisfy them. As a result, they eat more foods with higher fat content. This poses a huge risk for obesity.”

You can read more about food & weight loss, and find some of Dr. Simpson’s recipes here.


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