Food with high-fat contents might appeal to people to a great extent, but did you ever wonder how does fat itself taste like? Scientists from Purdue University have recently isolated the taste which they have described as being “terrible”.
A group of scientists are of the opinion that fat is a basic taste like the five known ones (bitter, salty, sour, sweet, and umami). This would imply that fat has a distinct taste of its own. Does it really? Researchers having isolated its taste testify that it is horrible.
Richard Mattes, the lead author, and his team, analysed building blocks of fat known as fatty acids. The latter have been shown to be detected by the tongue on the molecular level. Volunteers were made to taste a group of samples made up of the basic tastes and fatty acids. The participants had their noses clipped so that they could not detect the aromas of the samples.
The results showed that the fatty acids were of specific tastes, depending on the chemical structure of the samples: short-chain fatty acids tasted “sourish,” while medium- and longer-chain ones were more “bitterish”. The taste was not quite either downright sour or bitter – rather, it was distinct. It has not been coined a name yet. The researchers have been calling it “oleogustus”, a combination of the Latin terms for oil and taste.
Now, what is the verdict regarding the “oleogustus” taste? As per the findings, it is really bad. This might sound surprising, given that people, at large, find junk food which is full of fats to be extremely tasty, but it is to be noted that that happens when the fat is in combination with other tastes, aromas and textures.
Why would fat taste so bad then? Humans might actually be programmed to like fats but dislike fatty acids themselves.
“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,” Mattes says.
A speculation as to the reason behind this hypothesis is that while fatty acids are essential nutrients, they are also found in rotting foods when fats break down into their building blocks. Therefore, the bad taste of the fatty acids might act as a warning signal to prevent one from eating something rotten.
But, then, humans are such that they sometimes yearn for foods with unpleasant tastes, like sour foods. Maybe, it is the same thing for fatty acids?