An attraction for palatable foods rich in lipids is shared by rodents and humans. Over the last decade, the mechanisms responsible for this specific eating behavior have been actively studied, and compelling evidence implicates a taste component in the orosensory detection of dietary lipids [i.e., long-chain fatty acids (LCFA)], in addition to textural, olfactory, and postingestive cues. The interactions between LCFA and specific receptors in taste bud cells (TBC) elicit physiological changes that affect both food intake and digestive functions. After a short overview of the gustatory pathway, this review brings together the key findings consistent with the existence of a sixth taste modality devoted to the perception of lipids. The main steps leading to this new paradigm (i.e., chemoreception of LCFA in TBC, cell signaling cascade, transfer of lipid signals throughout the gustatory nervous pathway, and their physiological consequences) will be critically analyzed. The limitations to this concept will also be discussed in the light of our current knowledge of the sense of taste. Finally, we will analyze the recent literature on obesity-related dysfunctions in the orosensory detection of lipids ("fatty" taste?), in relation to the overconsumption of fat-rich foods and the associated health risks.
Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society.