People who cannot detect fat in food are more likely to overeat and therefore become obese, a new study has found.
The finding adds weight to the growing body of research that points to a connection between fat taste and obesity.
Researchers at the Deakin University, Australia, found that people who can't taste the fat in foods eat significantly more at lunch after having a high fat breakfast than those who can taste fat.
"These results suggest that the ability to taste fat is linked with the fullness experienced from fat," said Deakin's Professor Russell Keast.
"If you do not taste fat or experience the fullness associated with eating fatty food, you are likely to be more hungry and consume more energy after an earlier fatty meal. And as we know overconsumption of foods, particularly fatty foods, is associated with people being overweight or obese," said Keast.
For the study, the participants' sensitivity to fat taste was tested. Then, over four separate days, they ate a high fat, high carbohydrate, high protein breakfast and were provided with a buffet style lunch where they ate a variety of foods until comfortably full.
Measurements of energy consumed at lunch were recorded as was the participants' perceived hunger and fullness.
This research builds on Keast's previous work that found fat is part of the tongue's taste range (along with sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami) and supports conjecture that the ability to taste fat is associated with development of obesity.
"It is becoming clear that our ability to taste fat is a factor in the development of obesity," Keast said.
"We know that people have a taste threshold for fat. Some people have a high sensitivity to the taste and are likely to eat less fatty foods, while others are less sensitive and cannot taste fat and are more likely to overeat fatty foods," said Keast.
"Through this latest study we now see that low sensitivity to fat taste impairs the body's ability to register the fullness signals that would normally come from eating fatty foods.
"The evidence is therefore building that increasing fat taste sensitivity in those who are insensitive is required as one way to address the growing obesity problem," said Keast.
The study was published in the journal Appetite.