Say Hello to the Taste of Pure Fat

A new taste has been added to the human palate and it's called pure fat. Food is normally classified as sweet, salty, bitter, umami, sour. Now a new study published in the journal, Chemical Senses argues that we’re missing another basic taste: FATTY. The medical term: oleogustus which means unique taste of fat which stems from the Latin translation of oily or fatty taste is oleogustu.

There’s no one definition for what makes something a basic taste. Fatty meets several categories:

  • the stimulus should have a unique structure
  •  it should bind or interact with a unique receptor                       
  • it should be carried by the taste nerves to the central nervous system where taste information is decoded, and it should have a particular function.

Researchers wanted to analyze is a group of people classified fatty as a taste that is unique from the basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami. Participants were fed a series of solutions, asked to plug their nose to control odor and were asked to sort into similar or dissimilar taste categories.

People indeed separated fatty acids into a tight group; when they were given samples of bitter, umami and fatty tastes, they sorted fatty acids in a league of their own, even though there isn’t currently an accepted category or name for the taste.

The fatty acid taste is actually terrible and actually designed as more of a warning system. Not associated with fatty tastes. The creaminess and viscosity we associate with fatty foods is largely due to triglycerides. Molecule with 3 fatty acids that isn’t a taste stimulus but rather a feeling in the mouth

The food industry has known about this for a very long time, and they go to great efforts to keep concentrations of these fatty acids below detection thresholds, because if you can detect them you’re likely not to eat the food.

But in small concentrations below detection levels, the taste can be pleasant—just as we enjoy the bitterness of wine, chocolate and coffee. They're classifying a new taste could help us understand our food better. If you understand the workings of a sensory system, you can use them for purpose.

Whether that’s to improve the quality of the food supply, the safety of the food supply, reduction of cardiovascular disease, treat taste disorders, there are any number of possibilities here.