Assuming humans can detect the taste of fatty acids, how does it happen?
Research suggests that humans can detect the taste of fatty acids, but how this occurs is not known. The Genetics of Taste Lab looked into this question. Using an omega-6 essential fatty acid (linoleic acid), the Lab examined both genetic and environmental factors that might contribute to the ability to taste this important nutrient.
Scientists have long accepted that sweet, sour, salty and bitter are basic tastes. More recently, umami (savory) was added to the list. And now through the findings of our study, as well as those of our collaborators, we can finally provide strong evidence that there is a sixth taste: fat, or as it is starting to be known in the land of taste, oleogustus.
Fat is the sixth taste.
The study had dual purposes. The first was to determine whether people can, in fact, discern the presence of linoleic acid and discern the difference between higher and lower concentrations without using sense of smell. In a survey of 735 subjects, ranging in age from 8 to 90, of white, black, Asian and Latino ethnicity, the answer was definitively yes, people can detect the taste — but to different degrees.
The second was if taste acuity plays a role in obesity. In answer to this question, the researchers found no link between %BF and ability to perceive the taste of the linoleic acid.
The results also revealed an interesting pattern in sensitivity. Women were much better than men at discerning the taste, and young people 17 and under, especially girls, were better than older people.
With these results, we helped with one step in the taste determination process: demonstrating perception of fat taste without the sense of smell.
The Fatty Acid Taste Study ran from November 2014 to August 2015. 1,020 participants enrolled with the help of 29 community scientists. This two-year study was led by Nicole Garneau PhD and Richard Mattes PhD, and made possible by a partnership between the Health Science and Visitor Programs Departments at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Nutrition Science Department at Purdue University.