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, 29, 305-27

Is There a Fatty Acid Taste?


Is There a Fatty Acid Taste?

Richard D Mattes. Annu Rev Nutr.


Taste is a chemical sense that aids in the detection of nutrients and guides food choice. A limited number of primary qualities comprise taste. Accumulating evidence has raised a question about whether fat should be among them. Most evidence indicates triacylglycerol is not an effective taste stimulus, though it clearly contributes sensory properties to foods by carrying flavor compounds and altering texture. However, there is increasing anatomical, electrophysiological, animal behavior, imaging, metabolic, and psychophysical evidence that free fatty acids are detectable when non-taste cues are minimized. Free fatty acids varying in saturation and chain length are detectable, suggesting the presence of multiple transduction mechanisms and/or a nonspecific mechanism in the oral cavity. However, confirmation of "fatty" as a taste primary will require additional studies that verify these observations are taste specific. Oral exposure to free fatty acids likely serves as a warning signal to discourage intake and influences lipid metabolism.

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosure Statement: The author is not aware of any biases that might be perceived as affecting the objectivity of this review.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Putative taste transduction mechanisms: location and effective stimuli. DRK, delayed rectifying potassium channel; GPCR, G protein–coupled receptor; MUFA, monounsaturated fatty acid; PUFA, polyunsaturated fatty acid; SFA, saturated fatty acid.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Physiological responses to oral exposure to dietary fatty acids. Free fatty acids are detected by various mechanisms on taste receptor cells, resulting in cell depolarization. The signal is conveyed to the central nervous system by the chorda tympani and glossopharyngeal and/or vagus nerves. This leads to generation of an efferent signal carried by the vagus nerve to multiple (e.g., stomach, intestine, pancreas, liver) sites, leading to a cascade of physiological responses related to lipid metabolism. Many of these responses provide feedback to modify feeding. FFA, free fatty acid; CNS, central nervous system; GL, gastric lipase; LPL, lipoprotein lipase; PL, pancreatic lipase; PP, pancreatic polypeptide; TAG, triacylglycerol; TRC, taste receptor cell; VLDL, very-low-density lipoprotein.

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