There have been many failed attempts to provide evidence of a sixth sense, but now scientists have at least, they claim, come up with a sixth taste – the taste of fat.
Fat, which now joins sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savoury), has a unique and unpleasant taste that researchers have called oleogustus.
“Our experiments provide a missing element in the evidence that fat has a taste sensation, and that it is different from other tastes,” said Professor Richard Mattes, of Purdue University in Indiana, US.
“Identifying the taste of fat has a range of important health implications. At high concentrations, the signal it generates would dissuade the eating of rancid foods,” he added.
“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.”
Current fat replacements may have been less successful than was hoped because they mimic the texture of fat, but not the taste, says the professor. Our food choices are often based on memories of how we felt after eating an item, but the taste of fat may contribute to those associations, he said.
In the new study, reported in the journal Chemical Senses, the researchers investigated the taste sensation of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), or free fatty acids, which are fat’s basic building blocks.