Fat is a test by itself, claim the researchers at Purdue University, adding to the known range of five tastes: bitter, sour, sweet, salty and umami.
This sixth taste was discovered in an intriguing experiment that led to the isolation of fat taste from other compounds in foods, that would otherwise enrich is and make it highly gratifying.
Guilty pleasures like junk food deep fried chicken wings are a great snack for that soccer match evening. If we were to taste just the fat inside we’d never touch a fried wing ever again. And that applies for all fatty foods.
Fat does have its own, distinctive taste. As it hasn’t been quite pinned until now, the researchers at Purdue University figured that the best name for the sixth taste would be oleogustus, derived of course from Latin oleo and gustus which stand for fat and taste.
Researchers studied the fatty acids that are detectable by our tongues at molecular level. A number of volunteers tasted samples that were infused with fatty acids and other chemicals reminiscent of basic five tastes.
Nose clipped so the smell would not interfere, the volunteers went through the process of sampling and reported tasting either sour tastes, corresponding to the short-chain fatty acids, or bitter, corresponding to long-chain fatty acids.
But these fatty acids on their own tasted bad. Fat is rewarding indeed if combined with other tastes and aromas or even texture enhancing additives. And it is gratifying. Junk food is the best go-to example for the use of fat in combination with other ingredients that enrich it to the point of hooking people up on the great, yet mischievous and certainly unhealthy taste.
It’s rather easy to draw up a list of characteristics of fat. It is creamy or oily, it’s thick and imbuing. How does fat taste has been however the decade-surviving question. The research team from Purdue University, on top of isolating the taste of fat, presented some hypothesis as why we in fact like fats while disliking fatty acids.
Mattes, the lead author of the experiment, stated:
“We have a situation where one form of fat is adding to the appeal of food and may encourage intake. While with another, the taste signal is aversive, discouraging consumption” .
We like fat because we are biologically programmed to have a certain intake of healthy fats daily. Our bodies need it and we search for it in the foods we take. But fatty acids, building blocks of fat, are also present in decomposing foods. Perhaps, that is how our bodies are programed to understand that something is bad for our health and fatty acids save us with their bad taste.
Richard Matters, also of Purdue University stated:
“I wonder if the less-than-perfect performance of current fat replacers may be due to a lack of understanding of all mechanisms for fat perception and nutrition. Failure to account for a taste component may compromise quality.”
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