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Scientists in America believe they have found a sixth sense of taste and that it all comes down to fat. The team, from the school of medicine at Washington University, has discovered that the CD 36 gene, found in all humans, produces proteins that make people more sensitive to the taste of fat.
They have also located a chemical receptor in the taste buds of the tongue that recognise fat molecules and believe peoples' sensitivity to this particular taste varies. But have they discovered a sixth taste?
It's only a few years ago that every chef seemed to be focused on using the flavor enhancing umami, thought to be the fifth taste, after sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Umami is found in foods like red meat, tomato and Parmesan cheese and is relatively new discovery to the West. However, it is something that has been prominent in Asian cooking for a long time, thanks to their use of umani rich seaweed stock in preparing noodles.
But will this discovery lead to new culinary breakthroughs ? The chief scientist behind the discovery, Dr Nada A. Abumrad, doesn't seem too focused on this aspect: "In this study, we've found one potential reason for individual variability in how people sense fat."
"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." The team’s ultimate goal is to learn if increasing people’s production of CD 36, and therefore increasing their sensitivity to the taste of fat, can act as some sort of deterrent and prevent obesity.
The research showed that the more and more fatty foods a person consumes the less CD 36 they produce making them less and less sensitive to the taste of fat. It is also believed that around 20% of the population has a genetic issue affecting their production of CD 36.