Sweet, sour, salt, savoury, bitter AND fat: Scientists discover that tongue has 'sixth sense' for lipids
If you cannot resist a stodgy
cake or chips, it may not be simply down to lack of willpower.
Some of us have a sixth sense of taste – for fat – and those of us who lack it could be more susceptible
to piling on the pounds.
For years it was thought that the tongue could detect just four elements of taste – sweet, sour, salt and bitter. Then a fifth ‘savoury
’ one was discovered.
Now scientists believe a genetic variant can make some people far more sensitive to fat molecules
Until now, it had been assumed that the desire to eat fatty foods was to do with the sensory system, with some people attracted to its smell and texture.
But the Washington University School of Medicine researchers found that obese people’s cravings for fatty food may be related to their levels of a receptor called CD36.
Those with more of it are better at detecting the presence of fatty food, and seemingly less likely to gorge on it. Twenty-one overweight people were asked to taste solutions
from three cups and point to which was different. One contained small amounts of a fatty oil, while the other two were fat-free.
Participants who made the most CD36 were eight times more sensitive to the presence of the fat than those who made around half the amount.
Researcher Professor Nada Abumrad said the finding could help treat obesity by finding a way to increase sensitivity to it.
‘What we will need to determine in the future is whether our ability to detect fat in foods influences our fat intake, which clearly would have an impact on obesity,’ she said.
As people eat more fat, it is possible they need more and more to satisfy their cravings, the researchers told the Journal of Lipid Research.