The Ability to Taste Fat May Prevent Obesity RELEASED AT THE 2011 IFT ANNUAL MEETING & FOOD EXPO

June 13, 2011

NEW ORLEANS – New research supports the theory that individuals can actually taste the fat in food, and those who can't, may face an increased risk of higher fat intake and obesity.

During a symposium Sunday at the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo®, panelists said that individuals primarily detect fat in foods through smell and texture, although studies are increasingly supporting the notion that fat and fatty acids can also be tasted.

These studies also show that some individuals cannot taste fat, and that these "non-tasters," are associated with genetic variances in the way that some individuals process food.  When combined with environmental factors such as living in an urban setting close to convenience stores and fast food – these individuals were more likely to ingest a greater amount of fat, and subsequently faced a higher risk of obesity.

"The general perception is that people eat what they like, but this is not always the case," said Kathleen L. Keller, Ph.D., of the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, and associate professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

In these people, genetics plays "a key role in coordinating fat preference and selection with the metabolism and storage of this nutrient," said Keller.
As a result, non-tasters have "impaired fat perception," and may subconsciously crave fat to compensate for a perceived deficiency, according to Keller. Conversely, individuals who were more sensitive to the taste of fat ingested less.

"A genetic variation in taste affects food and beverage sensations, which affects food and beverage preference and intake," said Keller.  This can affects an individual's risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity and cancer.

Recent research also links the perception of the food having a creamy consistently with higher fat intake and an increased preference for added fats and oils, and a lower preference for low-fat dairy products.

"Biological differences in food perception are real and potentially important to food acceptance," said Keller. "Some populations may require alternative approaches or food formulations to achieve optimal acceptance."

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About IFT

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.

For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit ift.org.

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