People sensitive to the taste of fat tend to eat less of it and are less likely to be overweight, according to Australian research that found human tongues can detect fatty tastes.
Researchers at Deakin University, working with colleagues at the University of Adelaide among others, found that fat was the sixth taste people can identify in addition to the five others — sweet, sour, salty, bitter and protein-rich.
In a statement, Deakin researcher Russell Keast said the findings built on previous research in the United States that used animal models to discover the taste for fat.
"Interestingly, we also found that those with a high sensitivity to the taste of fat consumed less fatty foods and had lower BMIs (body-mass indices) than those with lower sensitivity," Keast added.
The research team developed a screening procedure to test the ability of people to taste a range of fatty acids commonly found in foods.
They found that people have a taste threshold for fat that varies from person to person — some people have a high sensitivity to the taste while others do not.
"With fats being easily accessible and commonly consumed in diets today, this suggests that our taste system may become desensitized to the taste of fat over time, leaving some people more susceptible to overeating fatty foods," Keast said.
"We are now interested in understanding why some people are sensitive and others are not, which we believe will lead to ways of helping people lower their fat intakes and aid development of new low fat foods and diets," he added.
The researchers said the discovery of the fat taste could be key to reducing obesity. The results of the study are published in the latest issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.