Scientists have identified a sixth taste, and it could be the reason we become fat

Sarah Spickernell
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In small quantities, the taste of fat is very appealing (Source: Getty)
Carrying a few extra pounds? Blame oleogustus - which scientists reckon is the "taste of fat", according to a new study in the journal Chemical Senses.
In fact, along with sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savoury, the study suggests oleogustus should be factored in as a key part of the human taste palate.
The study's authors, based in US, said that by controlling our reaction to it they could keep obesity at bay.
By asking a sample of men and women to taste foods where fat content was unidentifiable other than by taste, they found that in nearly all cases fatty acids, the basic building blocks of fat, were identifiable.
While they added that the unique taste is an unpleasant one at high concentrations, they reckon it could be the driving force behind widespread over-consumption of fatty foods.

Tackling expanding waistlines

As our access to huge quantities of fatty foods increases, obesity has become an endemic health problem across the world. According to a recent report by McKinsey, almost half the world will be obese by 2030, creating severe health risks such as an increased chance of heart disease.
The manipulation of how we react to fat has long been considered an opportunity for controlling the amount we eat, but until now methods have been restricted to replicating texture and have not proved particularly successful. By throwing taste into the mix, it might now be possible to create identical, slimming alternatives.
“Identifying the taste of fat has a range of important health implications,” explained Professor Richard Mattes of the University of Indiana, lead researcher of the study.
At high concentrations, the signal it generates would dissuade the eating of rancid foods. But at low levels, it may enhance the appeal of some foods by adding to the overall sensory profile, in the same way that bitterness alone is unpleasant but at appropriate levels adds to the appeal of wine and chocolate.

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