Our tongues apparently recognize and have an affinity for fat, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. They have found that variations in a gene can make people more or less sensitive to the taste of fat. The study is the first to identify a human receptor that can taste fat and suggests that some people may be more sensitive to the presence of fat in foods. The study was published online on December 31, 2011 in the Journal of Lipid Research. Investigators found that people with a particular variant of the CD36 gene are far more sensitive to the presence of fat than others. “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,” says senior investigator Dr. Nada A. Abumrad, the Dr. Robert A. Atkins Professor of Medicine and Obesity Research. “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.” People who made more CD36 protein could easily detect the presence of fat. In fact, study 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 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. Others made much less. And some were in between. Participants were asked to taste solutions from three different cups.
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