Combating Obesity By Increasing People’s Sensitivity To Fat In Their Food

At first scientists have only known four basic tastes that human tongue can detect, sweet, sour, salt and bitter.

Then scientists have discovered a fifth basic taste known as ‘umami’ or savory. Now, scientists find fat as the sixth basic human taste.

A research team in the United States has discovered a chemical receptor in the taste buds on the tongue that recognizes fat molecules, and found that its sensitivity varies between individuals.

The research team, from the school of medicine at Washington University, St Louis, showed that people with more of a receptor called CD36 were better at detecting the presence of fat in food.

They found that variations in a gene that produces CD36 makes people more or less sensitive to the presence of fat.

The finding may explain why some people consume more fatty foods than others.

Researchers were then hopeful that their discovery can be exploited to combat obesity by increasing people’s sensitivity to the fat in their food, they eat.

It is believed that up to 20 per cent of people have a variant of the CD36 gene. The inherited gene varies in every individual. If the individual happens to produce lower levels of the receptor, this could mean, they are less sensitive to the presence of fat in food and hence may make them more prone to obesity.

According to Dr. Yanina Pepino, who also conducted the research, “If we follow the results in animals, a high-fat diet would lead to less production of CD36, and that, in turn, could make a person less sensitive to fat.

“The ultimate goal is to understand how our perception of fat in food might influence what foods we eat and the qualities of fat that we consume,” said Professor Nada Abumrad, who led the research.

The study, which is published in the Journal of Lipid Research, found that those with half as much CD36 were eight times less sensitive to the presence of fat.

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