Washington: Our taste buds can recognize fat and some people may even have a preference for it due to variation in genes that can make certain persons more or less receptive to the taste of fat in foods.
These findings were made in a study by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Investigators found that people with a particular variant of the CD36 gene are far more sensitive to the presence of fat than others.
The researchers studied 21 people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, which is considered to be obese. Some participants had a genetic variant that led to the production of more CD36 protein. Others made much less. And some were in between.
Participants were asked to taste solutions from three different cups. One contained small amounts of a fatty oil. The other two contained solutions that were similar in texture to the oil but were fat-free. Subjects were asked to choose the cup that was different.
“We did the same three-cup test several times with each subject to learn the thresholds at which individuals could identify fat in the solution,” said first author M. Yanina Pepino, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine.
“If we had asked, ‘does it taste like fat to you?’ that could be very subjective. So we tried to objectively measure the lowest concentration of fat at which someone could detect a difference,” she said.
Her team masked input that might help participants identify fat by sight or smell. To eliminate visual cues, they lit the testing area with a red lamp. Study subjects also wore nose clips so that they could not smell the solutions.
It was found that subjects who made the most CD36 were eight times more sensitive to the presence of fat than those who made about 50 percent less of the protein.
“The ultimate goal is to understand how our perception of fat in food might influence what foods we eat and the quantities of fat that we consume,” senior investigator Nada A. Abumrad, PhD, of the Dr. Robert A. Atkins Professor of Medicine and Obesity Research said.
“In this study, we’ve found one potential reason for individual variability in how people sense fat. It may be, as was shown recently, that as people consume more fat, they become less sensitive to it, requiring more intake for the same satisfaction.
“What we will need to determine in the future is whether our ability to detect fat in foods influences our fat intake, which clearly would have an impact on obesity,” Abumrad said.
Dr Abumrad was the first to identify CD36 as the protein that facilitates the uptake of fatty acids. She says better understanding of how the protein works in people could be important in the fight against obesity.
The study was published online in the Journal of Lipid Research.